​Signs and Symptoms of the Five Most Common STDs

​Signs and Symptoms of the Five Most Common STDs

Signs and Symptoms of 5 Most Commons STDs

Updated: 02/10/2020

Many are aware that there are two classifications of STIs or STDs. The first type is a bacterial infection that can usually be treated with antibiotics. The second class is viral infections. While research has given medications that lessen the symptoms, there are no cures. What makes some of these ailments devious is that oftentimes there are no specific symptoms and the only way to know if you have the STI is to get tested.

There was a recent news article regarding a man who was dedicating the rest of his life to informing other sexually active individuals about the dangers of HIV. It seems he had a self-diagnosed illness and went to his doctor for a confirmation. He was numbed when his physician told him he had HIV – and he probably had the infection for 10-15 years. Thankfully, the man is now on the medications he will take every day of his life. His HIV had not developed into full AIDS. But, think about others he may have infected over a 15 year span if he had not practiced safe sex.

We will discuss the top five STDs in our world today. You will know the cause, the symptoms, and what could occur if the illness is not treated. The one common thread among all of these is that you must be tested.

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This bacterial infection is the most common of all STIs that are diagnosed in the U.S. today. It is also in the top of the list in many developed countries. It is caused by a bacteria and the CDC reports that one out of every 15 teenage girls will have this infection. While some my believe this to be a substantially benign STI, it has been proven that it can decrease the body’s immune system enough so that it increases the risk of other STIs and even HIV.

Chlamydia can be contracted via vaginal, anal and oral sex. Many times there are no apparent symptoms. 75% of all women who are infected show no signs. If there are symptoms they may include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful urination
  • Stomach pain

Less common symptoms in women include;

  • Lower stomachache
  • Lower back pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Painful intercourse

However, these symptoms can mimic other illnesses. This is why testing is so important.

If the infection is left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In addition, chlamydia can lead to serious consequences such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

While 75% of women have no symptoms, 50% of men escape symptoms. If a man does have symptoms they may include:

  • Thick, yellow-white, milky or watery discharge from the penis
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Pain and swelling in the testes


This is a venereal disease that has been around for hundreds of years. Since it is a bacterial infection, treating and curing with antibiotics was never an issue. However, like many bacteria, the gonorrhea strain has morphed and developed into a bacterium that is not responding to traditional treatments. So, in theory, there are two strains: one that can be treated and one that is antibiotic resistant. The only way you know which type you have is if and when your treatment fails.


Like chlamydia, initial symptoms can be non-existent. If you do have symptoms they can take up to 10 days to appear after initial infection. In women who do show signs of the STI, symptoms may include:

  • Unusual, increased bloody yellowish or watery green vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fever
  • Nausea

But as you can see, these are very general symptoms and can indicate a number of illnesses. The only true way to know if you are infected it to be tested.

Again, like chlamydia, only 50% of men will have symptoms of gonorrhea. If a man does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Yellow-white, or green-white discharge from the penis
  • Painful, frequent urination
  • Rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Testicular pain
  • Burning and itching around the opening of the penis
  • Sore throat

A man cannot depend on any of these symptoms to confirm a diagnosis. Tests need to be performed. It is a very good idea to be tested at least once a year for all STIs. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to gonococcal arthritis, or DGI. This illness is caused by the spread of gonorrhea to the body, including the blood, skin, heart, or joints. This happens in only 1% of those who have been infected, but DGI can be deadly. It develops as early as 2-14 days after being infected

Genital Herpes

For those that engage in a lot of  casual sex, herpes is a gift that keeps on giving. There is no cure because this is a viral infection. While there are medications that keep outbreaks at a minimum, the virus will always be present in your body. Besides the physical points there are psychological ones as well, especially for single individuals. This is a disease that you must inform your potential sex partner that you have. And a condom is mandatory to protect your partners.

3D render virus cells.

Genital herpes can be contracted from either the HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus. Genital herpes cases are predominantly caused by the HSV-2 virus, but HSV-1 cases are growing steadily due to oral sex. When symptoms appear, genital herpes presents itself as sores or lesions on the genitals, anus or upper thighs. Herpes can appear 2-12 days after infection and appear in the form of blister-like blemishes in the genital area or anus.

This STD is contracted from infected bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, saliva or herpes lesions, sores or blister fluid. Genital herpes is transmitted through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, or from skin-to-skin contact with an infected partner. It is very possible to contract the virus even if the infected partner does not have any visible signs.

Two-thirds of those infected with herpes have no symptoms, or have symptoms that mimic other less serious diseases. Common symptoms include:

  • Vesicles
  • Sores
  • Lesions
  • Blisters
  • Painful ulcers
  • Itching and/or burning in the genital area, anus or upper thighs

If left untreated, herpes can develop into meningitis or encephalitis. HSV encephalitis is mainly caused by HSV-1, whereas meningitis is more often caused by HSV-2. Genital herpes can be very dangerous to an infant during childbirth. If the mother has an active the baby can contract the virus. If the baby contracts the virus during birth, it can affect the skin, eyes, mouth, central nervous system, and/or even spread to internal organs via disseminated disease which can cause organ failure and lead to infant death.

Genital herpes is an incurable disease, and once you contract it, you may experience outbreaks throughout your lifetime. With the first herpes episode a patient can expect to have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time these recurrences usually decrease in frequency and severity. The outbreaks become short and inconsistent episodes can be managed and treated with antiviral medication.

There are warning signs that an episode is about to happen. Some of these warnings include mild tingling or shooting pains in the legs, hips and buttocks, and can last from two hours to two days. Then blisters develop into painful red spots, which then evolve into yellowish, clear fluid-filled blisters after a day or two. These blisters burst or break and leave ulcers that usually heal in about 10 days. In women, blisters can develop inside the vagina and cause painful urination.


Syphilis is another bacterial infection that has been around for centuries. There have been rumors and tales of famous men who have gone literally mad from the disease. Those who are infected experience their first symptom about 21 days from exposure, although it can take up to 90 days. The most common symptom is a firm, round, painless sore called a chancre typically appears at the original site of infection.

Syphilis is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium. For women, these chancres are found on the vulva, vagina, cervix, anus or rectum. Men will find them on the penis, anus or rectum. Chancres can also develop on the mouth, tongue, lips or any other body part that has come into direct contact with an infected sore. The chancre usually lasts between 3-6 weeks and heals on its own. But beware, just because the lesions have healed does not mean the bacterium has left your body.

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Unfortunately, there are symptoms that can be confused with other illnesses. These include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit and groin.

There is also a secondary phases of syphilis and this lasts from one to three months. It can become evident between six weeks and six months after initial infection. Secondary syphilis can be recognized by a flat rosy-colored, non-itchy rash that usually covers the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Additional signs of secondary syphilis include hair loss, white patches inside the mouth, genital warts, and flu-like symptoms such as fever and swollen lymph glands that last for weeks or even months.

There are also rare symptoms such as kidney and liver problems. However, like stage one, even if you get through the second phases, the bacterium is still in your body.

There is also a latent stage. This is when the STI has no outward symptoms and the individual believes it has been cured on its own. This is not the case. It can lay dormant for up to 20 years. But it still can be treated in the phase. The problems begin when there is no treatment. This is why it is so important for you to include testing for syphilis in your yearly bloodwork. While the disease can be treated, any damage to internal organs is permanent and non-reversible. If the syphilis infection progresses through the latent stage without treatment, it enters the terminal tertiary stage.

This is where all those rumors regarding famous history-makers come into play. The terminal tertiary stage of syphilis typically occurs between 10 and 30 years after the initial infection. At this time, entirely new and life-threatening symptoms occur. Individuals will experience blindness, loss of motor skills, dementia, and damage to the central nervous system and internal organs, such as the heart, brain, eyes, kidneys and bones. In most cases, tertiary stage syphilis is distinguished by a descent into mental illness, followed by death. This could have been prevented by a single blood test and the use of a condom.

With STI's currently at an all time high, it's absolutely crucial to get checked. raTrust actually offer an opportunity to  order STI tests online with fast delivery and very accurate results.


Young people born after 1980 know nothing of the fear that ran rampant in all countries regarding the HIV epidemic. Once a person had been diagnosed with HIV, it was an automatic death sentence. Patients were ostracized like the lepers of old. Even families would have no contact with their infected relatives.

World Aids Day concept.

Thankfully millions and millions of dollars were funneled into research and development. Today HIV is not a death sentence and those infected with this virus have medications that will keep their immune systems from developing AIDS. This is for developed countries only. Underdeveloped, third world countries still do not have access to the education and medication. HIV can be prevented by using condoms. Depending on where you live and what kind of healthcare is available, the medications can be hard to come by. They may be scarce or they may be too expensive for the average person. These medications must be taken every single day of the infected person’s life. HIV is a virus. There is no cure.

HIV is not only a sexually transmitted disease. It can also be transmitted by sharing infected needles among drug users. When you see reality television where police are arresting a person, before they search the individual they will always ask if they have any needles in their pockets. Law enforcement officers have been exposed to the virus by getting stuck with needles that have been contaminated.

Hiv- Aids

As mentioned at the beginning, there are those who have no idea they have HIV because some have no symptoms at all. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. If a person has symptoms they will mimic a case of influenza. The flu-like symptoms can occur anywhere from four to eight weeks from the point of infection. Then the individual will go through a period known as HIV seroconversion or an acute HIV infection. This is when the individual is most likely to infect another person. Some of the symptoms that result from HIV seroconversion syndrome include the following:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rash on the abdomen, arms, legs and face
  • Sore throat
  • Oral thrush

An untreated HIV infection can lead to serious health complications, including AIDS. Once the disease moves into the clinical latency stage HIV reproduces at very low levels, but is still active. As an individual's viral load begins to rise and their white blood cell count begins to fall, they are vulnerable to a series of infections and illnesses. This advanced stage of HIV is known as AIDS. The immune system is compromised by this point and is unable to protect the body from HIV-related symptoms or new infections or illnesses. These symptoms include:

  • Swollen lymph glands (in the neck and groin)
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Repeated fevers and night sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain
  • Weight loss
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Mouth sores and ulcers
  • Gingivitis (gum disease)
  • For women: yeast infections (mouth and vagina) and PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)

Additional symptoms that result from an HIV-weakened immune system include repeated skin rashes or flaky skin, oral thrush, skin pox (sores or blisters), fungal infections on the skin or nails, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Without treatment, it may take a matter of months or years for HIV to weaken the immune system beyond repair. When a person develops AIDS means that the body’s immune system is severely damaged, leaving it more susceptible to other infections that it would otherwise be able to fight off if it were not compromised and damaged. It is not uncommon for individuals with AIDS to frequently get colds, flus or fungal infections.


HIV is not the death sentence it once was. In the early days there were massive educational programs where all sexually active non-married individuals were urged to use condoms. This practice kept the virus from spreading. There are fewer cases diagnosed each year in developed countries. The majority of cases are based on lifestyles and ethnicity.

Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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