Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections you can acquire through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Although most of the time they don't show any symptoms, sometimes they present with typical symptomatology that may involve other parts of the body, too, such as the mouth or skin. The following are some of the most well-known STDs and some of their most common presentations.

Genital warts

Genital warts result from infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). They are benign growths that form on, in or around the genitals, and they look like small vegetations. Genital warts are also soft and irregular. They may present in both sexes and may resemble the lesion shown in the picture. Genital warts present with more complications in women than in men. They are not always easy to notice, because they are small, or may adopt to your skin color. They may cause discharge, itching, bleeding, or a burning sensation. Leaving them untreated might lead to significant pain and discomfort.

Primary syphilis

Syphilis is a disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It initially presents with a small sore that represents the entry point of the infection. It might be anywhere on, in, or around your genitals or mouth. Its location varies, depending on the type of sexual act you practiced. The sore, known as a chancre, is firm, round, and painless. It will heal alone, regardless of treatment. However, in the absence of antibiotics, it will progress to stage two of syphilis. 

Stage two of syphilis with a rash

The second stage of syphilis presents with a rash. It begins in the trunk and spreads towards the palms and soles. The rash looks rough and is red or reddish-brown. It can resolve alone with or without treatment. However, without the appropriate therapeutic interventions, it will progress to stage three of syphilis. Other symptoms at this stage include headache, fever, swollen lymph glands, weight loss, sore throat, muscle aches, or fatigue. The following stage of syphilis is asymptomatic and may last for years. If left untreated, it may lead to life-threatening complications. 

Tertiary syphilis

The tertiary stage of syphilis is the last and most lethal one during the disease. It might affect multiple organs and produce symptoms depending on the organ that fails each time. It is a terminal stage and can lead to death. At this point, neurosyphilis may also occur, representing the spreading of syphilis to the brain and nervous system. You are still able to treat the infection at this stage. However, organ failure is often severe and irreversible. Therapeutic approaches may be more complicated and aggressive than antibiotics. Supportive care and surgery might also be necessary to treat the infection and spare as much healthy tissue as possible. 

HIV seroconversion rash

HIV infection may initially present with an acute phase that resembles the symptoms and signs of the flu. Some of the signs may be the following: 

  • Fever
  • HIV rash
  • Sore throat
  • Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes)
  • Headache
  • Pain in the joints, muscles, and bones

This initial stage represents the seroconversion processes that take place as the virus starts replicating and infecting cells in the body. HIV rash can appear on any part of the body but is more prominent on the face, chest, feet, and hands. It might present as slightly raised, red, or itchy rash, accompanied by other constitutional symptoms. 

Chlamydia rash

Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs and causes urethritis in men and vaginitis in women. It usually causes genital discharge, penile or vaginal, painful urination, and a skin rash. However, most people with chlamydia do not present with symptoms. Men with chlamydia may have difficulties urinating, penile discharge, and swollen testicles. Women might have painful sex, vaginal discharge, intermittent vaginal bleeding, and problems urinating. The infection can also spread in the urethra or the superior reproductive organs. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility. The rash of chlamydia may sometimes be the result of the treatment upon exposure to sunlight. 

Gonorrhea rash

Gonorrhea is also one of the most common STDs that causes urethritis in men and vaginitis in women. Individuals with chlamydia and gonorrhea might have similar symptoms. However, vaginal and penile discharge is different in consistency, color, and smell. One of the cutaneous manifestations of the infection is the development of a rash. However, it mostly presents in disseminated gonococcal infections. It usually presents in the trunk, limbs, palms, and soles. The face, scalp, and mouth are often free of rash. Gonorrhea is curable with antibiotics and may coexist with a chlamydia infection. 

Genital herpes

Herpes simplex virus, known as herpes or HSV, is a sexually transmitted infection that has two types. HSV-1 is oral herpes, and HSV-2 is genital herpes. It manifests with a rash characterized by one or multiple blisters on the mouth, genitals, or anus of the infected individual. The blisters can erupt at any time and develop into small, painful ulcers. They produce itchiness, burning, or tingling sensation. Herpes is manageable with antiviral medication, which reduces the outbreaks, and controls the symptoms. HSV is easily transmissible through penetrative or non-penetrative sex. Keep in mind that once acquired, you cannot treat it.

Hepatitis-induced jaundice

Hepatitis B and C are two sexually transmitted, viral infections that progressively damage the liver of the infected individual. If chronic hepatitis manifests, it might present with jaundice. This condition develops because of too much bilirubin in the blood, due to obstructed liver ducts. In chronic hepatitis, the liver gets progressively incapable of processing and metabolizing substances. As a result, bilirubin builds up in the blood and gives the characteristic yellow discoloration of the skin and sclera of the eyes. Sometimes, jaundice may present in acute hepatitis too, when the damage to the liver is still reversible. Extreme fatigue, as well as darkened urine, may accompany jaundice.

What if you have an asymptomatic STD

Asymptomatic STDs are more common than symptomatic ones. Many people with an STD but without symptoms do not know about their infection until it is very late. STDs may have life-threatening complications as they progress without treatment. In such cases, screening is mandatory. Get tested as soon as possible if you got exposed to STDs through unprotected sex. Use an STD kit test and do it alone at home. The instructions are user-friendly, and the test is simple to perform.

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