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What are the First Signs of an STD?

After unprotected sex, STD worries may quickly rise to the top of your mind. Are you having unusual symptoms? Do you worry that you might have an STD? With most STDs, early treatment is critical. Whether you have a treatable problem or a chronic infection that you will need to manage for the rest of your life, early diagnosis and treatment will give you the best possible outcome. By learning to recognize the early signs and symptoms of an STD, you’ll know when to pay a visit to your doctor.

Genital Herpes

The herpes virus is typically caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2. While there are some treatments for herpes, there is no cure. Management is particularly important surrounding pregnancy since you can infect your baby if you have an outbreak surrounding delivery. Early symptoms of herpes may include:

  • Fluid-filled blisters that occur in localized areas. Depending on the area of infection, you may have sores surrounding your genitals or anus.
  • The skin area may tingle, itch or burn shortly before a blister outbreak.
  • Pain and burning during urination.
  • Flu-like symptoms, including muscle aches, body aches, headaches and fever.

Herpes may also create an oral infection that leads to sores around the mouth. Oral herpes is caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2, the same viruses which cause genital herpes. It’s important to avoid oral sex and potentially spreading the viral infection during an outbreak.

HPV/Genital Warts

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes genital warts. While the most obvious sign of several common symptoms associated with genital warts:

  • Bleeding during intercourse
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Ongoing discomfort or a feeling of rawness in the genital area

Sometimes, genital warts are small, flat and difficult to see at a glance. If you experience discomfort or bleeding during intercourse, this could be a warning sign that you have a problem and need treatment.


Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs across the United States–likely because it often shows up without obvious symptoms. In fact, 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men may be entirely asymptomatic. When symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge in women, including discharge with a strange or unexpected odor, thickness or discoloration
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods in women
  • Pain or significantly increased discomfort during sex
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Itching or burning
  • Pain when urinating (both men and women)
  • Clear or cloudy discharge from the penis in men
  • Swollen or painful testicles in men

Because chlamydia is often asymptomatic, if you have had recent sexual contact with a new partner, regular STD testing is incredibly important. Untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility, pelvic infection, inflammation and scarring throughout the reproductive system with resulting discomfort.


With early treatment, syphilis can easily be cured and managed, often with a single antibiotic treatment. Unfortunately, left untreated, syphilis can cause a host of ongoing problems, including damage to the organs such as your heart and brain. Syphilis can cause an early death. Early symptoms of syphilis include:

  • A small sore (chancre) or sores where the infection enters the body. This is the first sign of syphilis. Unfortunately, many people fail to notice this sore since it is often painless and heals on its own within a few weeks.
  • A non-itchy rash that begins on your trunk and spreads to cover the rest of your body
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Like chlamydia, syphilis might not show symptoms immediately. In some cases, it lies dormant in the body for years before it starts causing problems. Early STD testing and treatment can help prevent future problems with your health and the health of any future children if you become pregnant.


Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can be spread through any type of intercourse, including oral, vaginal and anal. Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with proper antibiotic treatment. Gonorrhea can, if untreated, cause infertility. Unfortunately, like many STDs, it often goes untreated because there are no obvious symptoms. If gonorrhea does show up with symptoms, they include:

  • Vaginal discharge which is yellowish or greenish in color
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Bleeding between periods, especially after intercourse
  • Abdominal pain
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pain or swelling in one testicle
  • Pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis

When to Be Screened

Each STD carries its own signs and symptoms which may not be obvious. Regular screening is critical in protecting yourself and your partner or partners. Any time you start to have sex with a new partner, consider STD screening for both of you. You may find potential problems before they become serious issues and keep both of you healthier! You should also be screened for an STD if:

  • You notice any unusual changes in vaginal discharge or any discharge from the tip of the penis. If something seems abnormal for your body, don’t be afraid to get it checked out!
  • You notice pain during intercourse, especially pain without any other obvious explanation.
  • You experience pain or swelling in or around your genitals or anus, without injury or any obvious cause.
  • As a woman, you notice changes in your menstrual cycle, including increased pain and discomfort or bleeding at odd points in your cycle. This includes bleeding with intercourse.
  • You notice pain or burning during urination.
  • You notice sores, warts or growths on your genitals, especially any sore or growth that is unfamiliar or you haven’t noticed before.
  • You notice changes in your genitals unconnected with puberty, including swelling or unfamiliar discomfort.
  • You have itching or burning in your genital area or itching and burning in your anal area.

Many STDs can be transmitted through oral and anal intercourse as well as vaginal intercourse. In these cases, symptoms may show up around the areas involved in sexual contact first.

Are you worried that you might have an STD? Do you have some of the signs and symptoms described here? If you think that you might have an STD, contact us today for a simple STD test. You deserve to know the right information that will help you control and manage your overall health–and our simple diagnostic test can help.