The idea of having a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, is enough to send waves of terror through the average person. Just the word “STD” is enough to evoke vivid images, both real and imaginary, of what such a diagnosis might mean. While STDs should be taken seriously, they are actually a lot more common than one might think. Sexually transmitted diseases are not only quite common, most of them can be easily treated – if not cured – if you’re able to identify potential STD symptoms and get yourself tested.
One of the main reasons STDs are so common is because carriers are not aware that they are infected. Most people don’t have a lot of knowledge about STDs and their associated symptoms, which is part of what makes them such a frightening prospect. As with many things in life, what you imagine can be ten times worse than reality; the same is true with STDs. What people imagine STD symptoms are like can be totally different than how actual STDs present themselves. By educating yourself about the symptoms of various STDs, you not only help yourself in seeking treatment sooner, you also give yourself a peace of mind by understanding what STDs look like, how they affect the average man or woman, and which treatment options are available.
Of course, there is one complication. A significant challenge in self-diagnosing STD symptoms is that many STDs can be completely asymptomatic, meaning carriers display no symptoms whatsoever. This can be especially true in their earliest stages of infection. That means that even the most informed of us could have an STD, right now, and not even be aware of it. This is dangerous, not only because you are at risk of spreading the disease to a partner, but because the infection could be doing harm to your internal systems without you knowing. That is why it is so important to seek out regular STD testing–even when you’re not showing any symptoms. It’s easy to hold off on getting tested until you develop a symptom that concerns you, but by getting regularly tested, you can catch infections before painful or harmful STD symptoms begin to manifest.
Common STD Symptoms
Before we move on to symptoms and treatments for each type of sexually transmitted infection, let’s first cover the basics. By understanding some of the most common STD symptoms, across a variety of diseases, you will be better able to spot a problem before it becomes any more significant.
To do this, we will break down each list by biological sex, as men and women can display symptoms differently, even when they share the same infection. We have also listed the symptoms by commonality, to aid you in the discovery process.
Symptoms in Men
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)
Rash on the penis, testicles, or around the groin
Itching on the tip of the penis
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 in Women
Vaginal discharge (thick or thin; white, yellow, or green)
Blisters on the vagina or genital area
Rash on the vagina or genital area
Pain during intercourse
Bleeding or spotting between menstrual cycles
Painless ulcers on the vagina
Pain in the pelvic region
Lower back pain
Swelling of the joints
Rectal pain, bleeding, or discharge (after anal sex)
Talking to Partners About Your STD Symptoms
If you’ve developed a number of STD symptoms and think you may have some type of sexually transmitted infection, it can leave you with a lot of questions–especially where your sex partners are concerned. What do you share with them? When STDs are concerned, it’s best to be as open as possible for the health and safety of everyone involved. Because responsible sex doesn’t just mean protecting against STDs, it also means having the difficult conversations that can come after STD symptoms begin to develop.
If you have recently had multiple partners, you may wish to contact them and inform them of your STD symptoms. You can suggest that they get tested, like you, to help prevent them from unknowingly spreading any infection on to other people. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but think of how you would appreciate being given that heads-up if the roles were reversed. It’s a small conversation that, though difficult, can come to the benefit of many.
If you’re struggling to find the words to say, there are a number of online services that quickly and anonymously help with this process. It’s always better to hear this news in a personal way, directly from our sex partners; but if the choice is between hearing it via text/email or not at all, it’s better to go with a service that will keep your partners safe and healthy.
STDs in Monogamous Relationships
If you’ve been in a monogamous relationship and suddenly begin to develop STD symptoms, it can only add to the pain and panic of the experience. What can already be a scary experience can now begin to stir up feelings of betrayal. You may begin to question how it’s possible to get an STD when you’ve only been having sex with one partner. While infidelity is certainly one way that STDs can be introduced into a monogamous relationship, it’s not the only way.
One way STD symptoms can develop during a monogamous relationship is that you or your partner were previously infected and have been asymptomatic up until now. Maybe your partner was asymptomatic, for example, and unknowingly passed this STD on to you. If you and your partner haven’t been getting regular STD checks, it can be difficult to know when you were infected and by whom. That is why those regular tests are so important.
Another possibility is that you were infected previously, by another partner, and the outbreak was delayed. This is most common with with herpes, but can be possible with other STDs as well. Sometimes you’ve been infected but it’s taken time for those nasty symptoms to reveal the virus.
If you have some of the STD symptoms discussed above, click on any of the sections below to learn more about each specific STD and their associated signs and symptoms. While only a doctor can diagnose you for certain, this information can empower you with important knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases and help you to understand what you can expect when you are tested.