Two friends discussing symptoms of STDs in males.

Know the Facts: Symptoms of STDs in Males

When looking at symptoms of STDs in males, or in females, for that matter, it’s important to acknowledge that the most common symptom for anyone living with an STD is to have no symptoms at all. While being asymptomatic is a common symptom in and of itself for anyone, it is especially common for males to exhibit no symptoms. However, there are a few common symptoms that appear in men for a few different common STDs.

Most men know that if they’re experiencing symptoms that have to do with their genitals, such as sores or bumps, itching, unusual discharge or pain while urinating or ejaculating, an STD is a likely suspect as to the cause. But by the time (or if) your symptoms present in this way, you could have been silently carrying the STD for a long time.

Early stages of STDs can sometimes present as symptoms of other common viral infections, such as a flu or cold, including fever, headaches, body aches and tiredness. Most people, when experiencing these symptoms, wouldn’t jump to assume they’re the result of an STD, though they sometimes can be.

In addition to being asymptomatic, the most common symptoms of STDs in males are:

– blisters on or around penis
– bumps, spots or lesions on the penis
– clear, white or yellow discharge
– dripping from the tip of the penis (thick or thin)
– painful urination
– painful ejaculation
– rash on the penis, testicles, or around the groin
– itching on the tip of the penis

Less common symptoms are:

– sore throat
– fever
– chronic flu-like symptoms
– pain in the testicles
– swelling of the testicles
– swelling of the epididymis
– swelling of the urethra
– swelling of joints
– rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding (after anal sex)

Symptoms for Specific Infections

Many STD symptoms overlap in that they can be caused by a number of different infections. The most common symptom to be shared by different STDs and STIs is, again, having no symptoms at all. But there are a few symptoms that tend to be linked to certain STDs.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs in the US, with the CDC citing nearly 1.6 million reported infections in 2016 alone. Chlamydia is most often asymptomatic in males.

Other common symptoms of chlamydia in males are:

– pain when urinating
– penile discharge
– pain or swelling of the testicles
– burning or itching around the opening of the penis

Less common symptoms of chlamydia in males can include rectal pain, discharge and bleeding.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is another very common bacterial STD that is also very commonly asymptomatic. Like chlamydia, it can be transmitted through anal, oral or vaginal sex.

Other than being asymptomatic, common symptoms of gonorrhea include:

– pain when urinating
– gray, white or yellow discharge from the penis
– pain in the testicles
– painful bowel movements
– bloody anal discharge

Less common symptoms of gonorrhea can include swollen or painful testicles, joint pain and rashes.

Herpes

Herpes is another common viral infection that can affect the mouth or genitals. The virus is transmitted through direct oral or genital contact with someone who has been infected, which often occurs in a sexual context, though not always.

Herpes is typically associated with the sores and blisters that usually develop near the mouth or genitals of a person with herpes. But, yet again, people can sometimes have the virus for years without having an outbreak of sores or experiencing any symptoms at all. Moreover, sometimes people can mistake the sores from a herpes outbreak for other skin conditions, such as pimples.
In addition to these outbreaks of blisters or sores on the penis or testicles or on or around the anus, butt, thighs, lips, tongue or gums, other common symptoms of herpes include:

– itching or burning where the blisters appear
– achy muscles, particularly in the lower back, butt, thighs or knees
– loss of appetite
– fever

HIV

Many people who contract HIV will experience flu-like symptoms within a few months of infection. Other common symptoms of early HIV infection in men include:

– fever
– sore throat
– rashes
– headaches
– fatigue
– joint and muscle pain
– swollen lymph nodes
– nausea and vomiting

Syphilis

Syphilis, though at one time almost eradicated, has reemerged as a common STD. Syphilis presents in four different phases, each with specific symptoms. Symptoms of the first stage in males can include a sore near the infection site or swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms of the second stage can include fatigue, sore throat, headaches, swollen lymph nodes or skin rash. In the third stage of syphilis, symptoms become latent, and it may appear the virus has gone away. The fourth stage can be very serious and cause complications related to heart damage, brain damage, nervous system damage, joint damage or damage to other parts of the body. Syphilis can also cause death if it reaches the fourth stage.

HPV

HPV is one of the most common STDs, with more than 100 different active strains. The CDC estimates that most men and women will contract at least one strain of the virus at some point in their lifetime. HPV is most commonly asymptomatic, especially in males. Other symptoms of the STD in males are:

– genital warts
– warts in the mouth or throat

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a form of hepatitis that is commonly transmitted through sexual contact. Unlike other STDs, hepatitis B often will not present in symptoms linked to the genitals. Though hepatitis B can be transmitted sexually, it is an infection of the liver, which means symptoms will not be focused on the genital area.

In keeping with the theme, the most common symptom of hepatitis B is to have no symptoms at all. Other common symptoms can include:

– cold or flu-like symptoms
– loss of appetite
– lethargy
– fever
– muscle and joint pain or aches
– nausea
– vomiting
– jaundice

Though this post can serve as a brief overview of symptoms to look out for if you’re worried you might have an STD, it’s no substitute for knowing whether you have an infection, and the only way to know that for sure is to get tested regularly. The most important thing to remember for symptoms of STDs in males, or anyone else, is that being asymptomatic does not mean you don’t have an STD.