STD Symptoms

There may be instances where you are caught unprepared and engage in unprotected intercourse. In addition to unwanted pregnancy, the other major looming risk is of infections-- STD.  STDs are infections that spread through sexual contact, affecting the genitals and/or other parts of the body.

If you have sex- oral, vaginal, anal intercourse or genital touching you are exposed to STDs. While avoidance is the best policy, being informed about the early signs of STD can help you seek help on time and prevent complications. Here is all you need to know about the next step.

What are my chances of catching an STD?

People with STD are commonly asymptomatic (show no STD symptoms) but can transmit them to their partners. So if you have unprotected sex with multiple partners (or your partner does) you should get yourself examined regularly. Unlike the common, not all STDs spread via body fluids and ejaculation is not necessary for transmission as pre-ejaculate can also contain bacteria, viruses etc.

Common STDs that you may catch

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Herpes
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Non-specific urethritis

STD symptoms in women and men:

Few characteristic symptoms found in certain diseases are

  • Discharge from vagina/penis –Notice the character of discharge
    • yellow green frothy – Trichomoniasis
    • Thick creamy – Gonorrhea
    • Watery or thick – Herpes, Chlamydia
    • Penile discharge – urethritis
  • Pain during urination with increased frequency
  • Lower abdominal pain: especially in syphilis and gonorrhea it indicates infection has travelled up from your genitals to pelvis causing a pelvic inflammatory disease(PID)
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Intense itching – especially in trichomonas
  • Bleeding in between period
  • Testicular pain – Gonorrhea
  • General flu-like symptoms
  • Anal itching, painful bowel movements

Sometimes there are local STD symptoms in women and men include visible lesions.

Chancre – hard painless raised nodules on and around genital region or mouth – Syphilis

Soft, small red patch that becomes raised and painful and then may ulcerate with discharge – cancroid.

Warts – irregular soft, flat or fleshy pigmented painless bumps. Often multiple genitals, groin thigh – HPV

Vesicles – small red blisters or ulcers, painful on or around lips, gums and genitals. May be associated with tingling, itching or burning – herpes

When will the symptoms appear?

The time period is highly variable. Being as small as 2-3 days to 2-3 months but an average of 2-6 weeks is when most symptoms appear.

What to expect on visit to doctor?

Mostly the investigations of STDs are pretty basic and non-invasive and your doctor would probably do the following:

  • Urine sample – most common to do culture to find out bacteria
  • Local swabs – collection of discharge or swab of local lesion
  • Per-speculum exam – (in women) the doctor might want to look at the cervix and vaginal wall and will do local examination
  • Blood test – for antibodies against the organism to confirm the disease.

What are the treatment options?

The treatment of all STD is oral antibiotics, antivirals or antiprotozoal according to organism for a period of 7-10 days. It may also be given in form of pessary to be kept in vagina or in injectable form.

STIs (genital diseases transmitted in other ways) -

Hepatitis A: contaminated food, not washing hands after using toilet, oral-anal contact (rimming)

Hepatitis B, C: sexual contact, infected needles, blood transfusion from infected source, from mother to baby

HIV: sexual contact, infected needles, blood transfusion from infected source, from mother to baby

In these cases, no symptoms for many years and then onset by significant weight loss, unexplained fever, increased infections of the body.

Scabies and pubic lice – sexual contact, close skin contact, sharing bed sheets, clothes, towels

Symptoms include intense itching in groin and white eggs on pubic hair.

Some genital diseases not necessarily requiring sexual contact

Candidiasis – excessive antibiotic use in pregnancy, diabetic patients

(Symptoms in women include – white curdy discharge, itching, rash)

Bacterial vaginosis – anything changing balance of vagina like new sexual partners or increased sexual activity

When untreated, STDs lead to complications

Pelvic inflammatory disease – ascending infection from genitals, cause lower abdomen pain and later can cause infertility if spreads to fallopian tube or ectopic pregnancy if conceived

Also in pregnant women STDs can cause spontaneous abortion, preterm labour, transmission to baby.

Syphilis – is a multi-stage disease and the primary infection of chancre in genitals (which heals on its own in 3 weeks) is not treated can progress to secondary and tertiary stages. Secondary symptoms – loss of appetite, fever, malaise, sore throat, rash on palms and soles. Lesions on genitals. Tertiary – can spread to skin causing lesions, heart and brain and can even cause death.

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