Many people have dry or itchy skin, allergies, or eczema, but similar symptoms can be caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including herpes, syphilis, genital warts and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Depending on the location of skin irritation, the presence of other lesions and/or rash, and how long the symptoms last, it may be a good idea to get tested for STDs or be evaluated by a health care provider.
Below is a more detailed list of these STDs and their symptoms.
There are 2 strains of herpes simplex virus (HSV): type 1 and type 2. Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV-1, while genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2. Both viruses, though, can cause infection in either location. Herpes is often asymptomatic, but some people develop outbreaks of blister-like sores on the lips, in or around the mouth, or on the genitals. Burning, itching and tingling may be the first symptoms of an outbreak. Dry skin, though, may also cause these sensations. Although there is no cure for herpes, antiviral medication, prescribed by a physician, can reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.
Syphilis is an STD caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. Syphilis progresses through 4 stages: primary, secondary, latent and tertiary. A rash is the main symptom of the secondary stage, and that rash could be mistaken for dry skin. According to The Centers for Disease Control, syphilis rashes or often rough and red, but can also be faint and hard to spot. Unlike dry skin, the syphilis rash does not itch, may affect the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and is often accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms. The rash may also be paired with wart-like, raised lesions in the mouth, underarms or groin. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics if caught early.
Genital warts (HPV)
Genital warts are sexually transmitted and are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). As described by The US Department of Health and Human Services, genital warts are skin-colored bumps that can range in number and size. They are usually found on or around the genitals or anus of men and women. Like dry skin, the warts may be itchy. There is no cure for HPV, but the warts can be treated or removed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children and young adults be vaccinated against the virus to prevent genital warts and HPV-related cancers.
HIV and AIDS
Soon after being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which attacks the immune system, some people develop a rash, which may be itchy or painful. People may also develop other flu-like symptoms like fever and swollen lymph nodes. Left untreated, HIV can severely weaken the immune system and cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV/AIDS is not curable, but it can be managed with proper care.
At the end of the day, any skin dryness or itchiness that you experience is most likely just due to dry, irritated skin. However, it is important to remember that some STDs can cause similar symptoms and to have yearly STD testing if you are sexually active or entering a new relationship.