STDs 101: The Most Common Types and Their Symptoms

There’s no reason to remain ignorant about STDs, especially if you’re sexually active. Here’s the low down on the most common STDs out there.

most common stds

When planning for a special night with a new partner or even a long time partner, STDs are the furthest in our minds. It’s not really a mood-enhancer if you go asking for their most recent STI screening result, nor is it romantic if you spend 5 minutes inspecting your partner’s genitals for bumps or discharge. However, as everyone who has ever had sex is vulnerable to contracting an STD, it pays to be aware.

Most people tend to overlook what’s going on down there, unless it has gotten really serious and difficult to dismiss. It can be a cluster of bumps, serious pain, or a white discharge that ticks you off that something is wrong. However, some infections don’t present as dramatically. A slight pain can be mistaken for cramping, vaginal discharge for normal discharge during ovulation, and tiny bumps may not be noticed at all. Some people don’t even know what to look out for.

Sexually transmitted diseases *STDs* and infections *STIs* are contracted through sexual contact. It can be passed from one partner to the other via vaginal sex, oral sex, or anal sex. Symptoms differ between men and women, and according to the part of the body infected. Some STDs and STIs are even asymptomatic towards a particular sex. [Read: How to avoid getting an STD]

How do you know if you have an STD or not?

You don’t. Most STDs and STIs are asymptomatic. To ensure your sexual health, make sure to get regular checkups and STI screening with your doctor to keep track of any symptoms. However, here are some symptoms that you can check:

1. HPV or Human Papilloma Virus

HPV is the most common type of STD that nearly every sexually active person is bound to contract once in their lives. There are about 30 types of HPV that can be transmitted by sexual contact, be it anal, vaginal, or oral.

It spreads via mere skin-to-skin contact, however, the use of condoms do not offer full protection. Most types of HPV are asymptomatic in majority of persons infected. When they do appear, symptoms include warts and irregular cervical results from a pap smear. Warts are flesh-colored individual bumps or clustered fleshy bumps that look like cauliflower.

In men, the symptoms appear as warts on the penis, scrotum, anus, and in some cases, the mouth and tongue. In women, the symptoms are warts in the vagina, labia, cervix and anus, as well as the mouth and tongue.

2. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of the genitals that appears within 10 days from exposure. It infects the urinary tract, rectum, anus, cervix and even the throat. It has similar symptoms to Chlamydia, and is most often contracted simultaneously with it. Symptoms appear mostly in men, but do present in women 20% of the time. Since it is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms in men include, cloudy white or bloody discharge from the penis, a burning sensation while peeing, swollen testicles, painful bowel movement, anal itching, and anal discharge. In women, symptoms include cloudy or bloody vaginal discharge, painful urination, abnormal menstruation, anal itching, and painful bowel movement.

3. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection targeting the genital tract. It is asymptomatic in the first two to three weeks. It can also be asymptomatic 50% of the time in men, and 75% of the time in women. However, when it does present symptoms, they seem mild enough that they are commonly dismissed. Once diagnosed, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Some signs include testicular pain, penile discharge, mild pain in the abdomen, and pain during urination for men. And in women, symptoms include pain during vaginal intercourse, vaginal discharge, and painful urination.

4. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a bacterial infection caused by a microscopic parasite called the Trichonomas vaginalis. It can be passed from genital-to-genital contact. This STI infects the urinary tract in men and the vagina in women. However, it is asymptomatic 70% of the time. It is treatable with a round of antibiotics.

For women, symptoms include whitish, yellowish, or greenish discharge from the vagina, strong cheese-like odor, persistent vaginal itching, pain when peeing, and painful vaginal intercourse. In men, symptoms include persistent itching or irritation inside the penile tract, painful urination, and whitish or yellowish penile discharge.

[Read: Why do men hate using condoms?]

5. Thrush

Candidiasis or thrush is a yeast infection caused by a species of fungus. This kind of fungus is commonly found on a person’s skin and genitals. However, when a person’s immune system is compromised, the fungus is allowed to flourish. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalance or an imbalance in the pH levels inside the vagina. It can be triggered by certain antibiotics, use of spermicides, and douching.

In women, symptoms include thick, white cheese-like discharge, soreness, irritation, and itching of the vaginal area. In men, the symptoms are irritation and penile discharge, as well as swelling of the penis head.

6. Syphilis

Syphilis is an infection caused by the bacteria Treponema Pallidium or more commonly called the pox. It is characterized by four stages. The first stage presents as a sore, which resembles a bump or even an ingrown hair. Body rashes and sores are present during the second stage.

However, if untreated, the disease enters a latent state, the third stage of the disease. In this stage, symptoms disappear and the person appears to be cured. However, about 15% of patients whose syphilis are left untreated for years advance to the fourth stage. Nonetheless, syphilis is highly treatable with antibiotics.

In men, the symptoms include painless ulcers on the mouth, penis and anus. Whereas in women, the symptoms are painless sores in the vagina, vulva, cervix, mouth, and anus.

7. Herpes

Genital herpes is an STD caused by two strains of the Herpes Simplex virus, the HSV-1 and HSV-2. However, of the two, HSV-2 is the more common cause. The disease is passed through skin-to-skin contact. Condom use do not offer full protection as it can spread through contact with the skin that’s not covered by the condom.

Herpes symptoms appear within a week from first exposure, and lasts for two weeks to four weeks. Herpes, being a virus, is incurable. However, it can be managed with the right treatment, making the virus enter a latent state. However, symptoms reappear whenever the person’s immune system is compromised.

In men, HSV-1 appears as cold sores around the mouth, and HSV-2 appears as blisters around the penis and anus. In women, HSV-1 presents as cold sores, and HSV-2 presents as blisters in the vagina and anus.

8. HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus that is passed through bodily fluids. This includes blood transfusion, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Persons are infected through vaginal intercourse or anal intercourse. However, contrary to popular belief, it cannot be transferred by mere kissing. The use of a condom during intercourse provides adequate protection against HIV transmission.

Early symptoms include fever, a sore throat, headaches, rashes, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. Chronic symptoms appear after a few years, including weight loss, diarrhea, and frequent fever and cough. Later stage symptoms include persistent fatigue, shaking chills and high fever, persistent headaches, chronic diarrhea, and swelling of lymph nodes, lasting for more than three months.

[Read: Fun facts about condoms]

In a world where crabs are not just found at sea and yeast is not just an ingredient in a recipe, it is best to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of the most common STDs. Almost all of them can be cured or treated. Majority of them can be prevented with proper knowledge and awareness. It pays to be wary but careful, than carefree and infected. Always practice safe sex!

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