STD symptoms: Common STDs and their symptoms

Learn about common and possible STD symptoms and how serious they might be. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have sex, you may also have an STD, with subtle or noticeable STD symptoms. Straight or gay, married or single, you're vulnerable to STDs and STD symptoms, whether you engage in oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Although condoms are highly effective for reducing transmission of STDs, keep in mind that no method is foolproof.

STD symptoms aren't always obvious. If you think you have STD symptoms or have been exposed to an STD, see a doctor. Some STDs can be treated easily and eliminated, but others require more involved, long-term treatment.

Either way, it's essential to be evaluated, and — if diagnosed with an STD, also known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) — get treated. It's also essential to inform any partners so that they can be evaluated and treated. If untreated, STDs can increase your risk of acquiring another STD such as HIV. This happens because an STD can stimulate an immune response in the genital area or cause sores, either of which might make HIV transmission more likely. Some untreated STDs can also lead to infertility.

STIs often asymptomatic

You could have an STI and be asymptomatic — without any signs or symptoms. In fact, this happens with a lot of STIs. Even though you have no symptoms, you're still at risk of passing the infection along to your sex partners. That's why it's important to use protection, such as a condom, during sex. And visit your doctor on a regular basis for STI screening, so you can identify a potential infection and get treated for it before passing it along to someone else.

Some of the following diseases, such as hepatitis, can be transmitted without sexual contact. Others, such as gonorrhea, can only be transmitted through sexual contact.

Chlamydia symptoms

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of your genital tract. Chlamydia may be difficult for you to detect because early-stage infections often cause few or no signs and symptoms. When they do occur, they usually start one to three weeks after you've been exposed to chlamydia. Even when signs and symptoms do occur, they're often mild and passing, making them easy to overlook.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Painful urination
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Vaginal discharge in women
  • Discharge from the penis in men
  • Pain during sexual intercourse in women
  • Testicular pain in men

Gonorrhea symptoms

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of your genital tract. The first gonorrhea symptoms generally appear within two to 10 days after exposure. However, some people may be infected for months before signs or symptoms occur. Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea may include:

  • Thick, cloudy or bloody discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Painful, swollen testicles
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Anal itching

Trichomoniasis symptoms

Trichomoniasis is a common STI caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, but often causes no symptoms in men. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women. When trichomoniasis causes symptoms, they may range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Clear, white, greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Strong vaginal odor
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Itching or irritation inside the penis
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Painful urination

HIV symptoms

HIV is an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV interferes with your body's ability to effectively fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease, and it can lead to AIDS, a chronic, life-threatening disease.

When first infected with HIV, you may have no symptoms at all. Some people develop a flu-like illness, usually two to six weeks after being infected.

Early signs and symptoms
Early HIV signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Rash
  • Fatigue

These early signs and symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken for those of another viral infection. During this period, you are very infectious. More-persistent or -severe symptoms of HIV infection may not appear for 10 years or more after the initial infection.

As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:

  • Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Cough and shortness of breath

Later stage HIV infection
Signs and symptoms of later stage HIV infection include:

  • Persistent, unexplained fatigue
  • Soaking night sweats
  • Shaking chills or fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C) for several weeks
  • Swelling of lymph nodes for more than three months
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Persistent headaches
  • Unusual, opportunistic infections
May. 01, 2012 See more In-depth