An STD is a disease that spreads mainly through sexual contact. STDs are one of the most commonly spread diseases in the world. What makes these STDs common? Some of the main reasons are the following:
- People do not know that they are infected
- People do not know how to prevent an infection
- People do not know how to treat an STD
- People don't treat an STD effectively
It is important to learn that not all diseases that affect the genitals are STDs, and are not always directly related to sex. Some of these are just sexually-associated. Such a disease is not transmitted during intercourse but occurs as a result of it. For instance, a urinary tract infection may occur because of several types of STDs.
Sexually transmitted diseases are contagious diseases, and some people are at higher risk than others. An individual at high risk probably has one or more of the following behaviors:
- Has multiple sex partners
- Has unprotected sex
- Shares needles when injecting drugs
- Offers sex for money or drugs
An STD can be the result of nearly every kind of infection. As such, there are viral, bacterial, or even parasitic STDs. The pathogens that are responsible for the STD, usually hide in our body fluids. Body fluids can be our vaginal secretion, blood, semen, or even saliva. This is why oral, anal, and vaginal sex can all be responsible for acquiring an STD.
Below are some of the most common STDs and their rashes that you should know about:
A picture of chlamydia rash
Chlamydia is a common and curable STD. It infects the penile urethra in men and the cervix in women. Its most common symptoms are painful sex, skin rash, and discharge from the vagina or penis. Nevertheless, the reason chlamydia is one of the most common STDs is that many people who get it do not show any symptoms for weeks, months or even years. However, if symptoms are present, they will start appearing 5 to 10 days after contracting the infection.
We can divide chlamydia symptoms by sex and see which are the most common symptoms if you are a man or a woman. Likewise, men are most likely to experience:
- Painful urination accompanied by a burning sensation
- Discharge from the penis that might be watery, pus or milky
- Testicles that look swollen and tender
Women might experience chlamydia as follows:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Discharge from the vagina that is yellowish and smells bad
- Painful sex or bleeding after sex
- Frequent urination
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Increase in the body temperature
- Intermittent vaginal bleeding
Despite the lack of symptoms, it is vital to get yourself and your partner screened if you think you have been exposed to chlamydia. If left untreated, it may cause a lot of damage.
A picture of gonorrhea rash
Gonorrhea, which is also known as ‘the clap’, happens to be another bacterial sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It usually infects the same organs as chlamydia, and if left untreated, has similar long-term effects.
As it is with chlamydia, many people do not find any symptoms of gonorrhea. When symptoms are present, they might appear between 2 weeks from the initial infection.
Gonorrhea symptoms are different in men and women.
Men experience discharge from the penis that is whitish, yellowish, or greenish. Some people may mistake it with pus. Pain while urinating or in the testicles might also be part of the symptoms. Finally, men with gonorrhea tend to urinate frequently.
Women with gonorrhea may experience:
- Pain during sex with or without post-sex bleeding
- Vaginal discharge that is yellowish or greenish
- Intermittent vaginal bleeding
- Frequent and/or painful urination
Be aware of the fact that gonorrhea can also infect the throat when transmitted via oral sex and cause a skin rash mainly on the trunk, limbs and palms/soles. Swollen lymph nodes and swallowing difficulties might also appear. Another possibility is acquiring anal gonorrhea which presents with anal discharge and anal bleeding, pain, or itching. Finally, the condition might affect the eye and lead to conjunctivitis, when infected fluid comes in direct contact with it.
A picture of syphilis rash on the hands
Syphilis is another common STD that comes with a notorious history and could lead to severe complications if left untreated.
The bacterium responsible for syphilis is Treponema pallidum. The condition gets transmitted when the individual carrying the bacterium comes directly in contact with their partner.
Primary symptoms include syphilis sores that appear in the following areas:
- External genitals
The sores are painless, firm, and round. They appear around 3 weeks after the primary contact.
Initial symptoms are usually followed by secondary ones. During this phase skin rash might pop out and get visible too, appearing like brown/red spots on the skin. The syphilitic rash is usually not itchy and starts from the trunk. It tends to involve the whole body, including the palms and soles.
The next stage is latent syphilis which is a long asymptomatic period, that requires treatment as well. If left untreated, late or tertiary syphilis can manifest. When the bacterium spreads to the nervous system, the condition refers to as neurosyphilis. Neurosyphilis presents gradually and affects the mental status, cognitive functions, and motion of the patient.
Congenital syphilis is a distinct category in which the fetus is infected by the mother during gestation or labor. It is a very severe and sometimes life-threatening condition.
One can transmit syphilis by vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Some scientists consider that oral sex is mainly responsible for the increase of syphilis transmission in men who have sex with men. However, men who have sex with men and women are also at high risk.
A picture of scabies on the skin
Scabies is a contagious skin disease that is not always sexually transmitted. The parasite responsible for scabies is Sarcoptes scabei.
An individual with scabies feels itchy skin rash that gets worse at night. The rash is observed in the folds on the skin, such as on the wrist, between the fingers, ankles, and in the genital area. It forms burrow tracks or lines. The most common sites of skin rash are the following:
- In between the fingers and surrounding the fingernails
- On the armpits
- In the inner wrist and elbow
- On the soles of the feet
- Around the nipples
- On the waistline
Because of the itchy rash, secondary sores can occur on the scratched area. These sores are at high risk for turning into impetigo. A severe form of scabies is crusted scabies or Norwegian scabies. Crusted scabies presents with thick crusts that form on the skin. Those at the highest risk are immunocompromised or very old.
Scabies is contagious and the mite can live for several days off the human body. 48 to 72 hours is usually the period during which a mite can live without a host. Except for close contact, it spreads by skin-to-skin contact, shared towels, clothing, and bedding too. Treating just the individual with scabies is not sufficient. A correct treatment plan involves all the individuals that are in close contact with the primary patient.
These skin rashes are generally found in the folds on the skin, such as on the wrist, between the fingers, ankles, and even in the genital area.
Scabies is contagious and the mite can live for several days off the human body. It not only spreads by close contact, but by skin-to-skin contact, shared towels, clothing, and bedding.
A picture of herpes rash
Herpes is a viral STD and has two different forms; HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is related to cold sores, whereas HSV-2 is associated with genital sores. However, it is quite possible to pass on herpes from the genitals to the mouth and vice versa. Herpes is usually asymptomatic but when it isn't, sores are always present. They can appear on the skin, around the mouth, on the genitals and anus. They are blisters full of fluid that can erupt at any time. Other general signs may include:
- Common cold symptoms
- Itchiness, burning or tingling sensation
- Difficulties while urinating
- Eye problems
HSV-1 is the most common type of HSV. It is characterized by oral herpes which patients transmit via saliva. HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted type of HSV that leads to genital herpes.
Symptoms can be managed with antiviral medication such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. These types of drugs will not only control symptoms but will also reduce outbreaks. Regardless of treatment, the virus cannot be cured. People with HSV must keep in mind that they can easily pass it on, even in the absence of symptoms.
Although using a condom is useful in reducing the risk of transmission, herpes spreads through skin-to-skin contact too.
A picture of trichomoniasis rash in the cervix. Men usually do not experience symptoms of this STD.
Trichomoniasis is another common STD, and this infection is more common in women compared to men.
Some women may mistake this infection for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection as the symptoms are quite similar. Skin rash, itching, irritation, painful sex, strong vaginal odor, and frothy discharge are some of the most prevalent symptoms.
Men can also catch trichomoniasis, but they do not tend to have any visible symptoms. When they do, they present the following:
- Discharge from the penis
- A burning sensation upon urination or after ejaculation
- Urinary urgency and frequent visits to the bathroom
Certain behaviors might increase your risk of getting trichomoniasis. Multiple sexual partners, unprotected sex, and previous infection with the same or a different pathogen are just some of the many risk factors. If you, as a woman, have been diagnosed with trichomoniasis, ensure your male partner gets treated right away. Trichomoniasis may not affect him much, but you certainly would not want him transmitting it back to you. Between females, trichomoniasis is transmittable back and forth. The mainstay in trichomoniasis management is a valid diagnosis. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult your doctor or try at home an std test kit.
Is an STD Rash a Simple Skin Rash?
A picture of HIV rash on the arms
If you observe any changes in your genital area, it could be an indication of having an STD, especially when you are sexually active. A small red bump, bruised genitals, or sore skin might be the first and only sign of an STD.
You must know that HIV rashes on the skin are a lot different than the skin rashes that appear due to diabetes. Therefore, you need to learn and distinguish between a skin rash and an STD rash. Any rash is mainly differentiated by how it looks. Except for that, a rash can present with various secondary characteristics such as itchiness or pain. Most STDs produce a painless rash. Syphilis, for example, produces painless skin lesions.
Another parameter that helps differentiate between rashes is their pattern. Scabies produces characteristic burrow tracks or lines on the skin in a quite specific shape. Finally, the location of the rash will let you know more about its cause. As mentioned previously, rash in the genital area is most probably due to an STD.
Irritation, Painful Lesions, Itchiness And Redness
Redness, itchiness, painful lesions and irritation are the most common symptoms of a skin rash that is possibly not caused by an STD. Severe STD rashes usually do not cause pain. For instance, syphilis is a form of a sexually transmitted disease that causes painless lesions in the genitals. On the contrary, itching and irritation are some quite common symptoms of STD rashes. Chlamydia, genital herpes and warts, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea are STDs that may cause vaginal itching and irritation. A rash is usually red or brown, and you cannot differentiate between its potential causes only by its color.
Symptoms Generally Subside Automatically and Do Not Spread
In most of the cases, STD rashes accompany several other symptoms like rectum pain, pelvic, cold sores, flu, etc.
However, in the case of an individual having a yeast infection, itchiness, uneasiness, and foul discharge are present. All these symptoms show up early, are quite apparent, and heal quickly.
As mentioned above, the syphilis STD creates rashes on the hands and feet, causes fatigue, hair loss, sore throat, and several other problems as it spreads. The same is the case with chlamydia STD which greatly affects the rectum in both women and men. There are some additional symptoms such as bloody discharge, rectal pain, and painful discharge.
Certain types of STDs can progress and become life-threatening. One example is syphilis, which may evolve into a late or tertiary stage, and finally, affect the nervous system. Others may lead to infertility or death of a fetus.
On the contrary, some STDs stay as they are, alternating between exacerbations and asymptomatic periods. They do not progress and do not improve either. One example is HSV. Treating HSV with antiviral medication does not mean that you got rid of HSV entirely. The virus will still exist in your body but produce fewer symptoms and exacerbations. However, HSV-2 that usually affects the genital area, will not suddenly affect your mouth. In that sense, the virus does not spread into other areas of your body.
Ingrown Hair, Yeast infection, Bladder infection
A picture of ingrown hairs causing a rash
Yeast infection, ingrown hair and bladder infection are often mistaken and thought to be genital herpes. Genital herpes is different from the conditions mentioned above but can cause very similar symptoms like bumps and blisters in the genital area. Other general signs may include:
- Common cold symptoms
- Itchiness, burning or tingling sensation
- Difficulties while urinating
If you notice mild itchiness and a small cluster of bumps, you should wait for a day or two. If it heals quickly and does not spread to a larger area, it could be due to an ingrown hair and it's not caused by an STD.
Genital herpes, on the other hand, comes with various other symptoms such as swollen glands, sore throat, and flu. Besides, the lesions take around a minimum of 3 weeks to heal. Ingrown hair usually results from shaving the pubic area or from a bikini wax.
A bladder infection will probably cause pain while urinating. Having such an infection would mostly interfere with your urinating habits. You might observe frequent visits to the bathroom, accompanied by a burning sensation, or even small portions of blood.
Yeast infection will produce itching and burning sensation of the vagina and vulva. Pain and irritation during sexual intercourse and vaginal discharge of cottage-cheese consistency might appear too.
It is crucial to differentiate between yeast infection, ingrown hair, bladder infection, and genital herpes because they all require different treatments.
Skin Rashes From an Allergic Reaction
If you experience symptoms like irritation and itchiness, an allergic reaction to perfumes and soaps, causing the skin of the genitals to dry out might be the cause of your symptoms. Each individual reacts differently to certain perfumes, dyes, soaps, and detergents.
Often, the undergarments may also cause allergic reactions. As the genital skin is too delicate, it may react adversely. You may also develop such symptoms quickly. Opting for milder (PH neutral) products can be beneficial. Make sure not to douche the genitals with too much soap, or it will aggregate the itching.
What is responsible for this type of rash is not an STD, but your immune system. The only parameter you need is an allergen. An allergen is something you can eat, inhale or touch and have an allergic reaction. Some common allergens that you might get in contact with and without you knowing, are the following:
- Animal dander
- Food such as nuts
- Insects bites
In general, allergic reactions might be mild, moderate, or severe in intensity. A typical and mild allergic reaction consists of hives, itchiness, stuffy nose, and rash. An allergic rash appears suddenly, and after contact with the allergen. It disappears quickly upon medication. A severe allergic reaction is a life-threatening condition that interferes with our vital body functions, such as breathing.
Heat Rash or Herpes?
A picture of heat rash
Herpes and heat rash are both very common and may cause similar skin problems. Heat rash may occur at any part of your body including your private parts, and it disappears quickly. It is due to trapped perspiration in your sweat glands and prefers the skin folds of your body. According to the depth in which the blocked pores are, we can classify heat rash in 4 types:
- Miliaria crystallina
- Miliaria rubra
- Miliaria pustulosa
- Miliaria profunda
Heat rash subsides on its own, from a couple of hours to in merely a day. Simply by washing your genitals or changing clothes, you may notice the heat rashes subsiding. Try cooling the skin and avoiding heat exposure, and you will find quite a relief. If not, it can be herpes.
Herpes rash is a type of rash full of blisters that can appear in any part of the body. Usually, it manifests around the mouth or at the genitals and is irrelevant to the heat. It won't clear up if you cool down the area or if you change your clothes. Also, it is contagious, whereas heat rash isn't.
If the redness or itchiness does not seem to reduce after a few days or if the lesions and bumps spread, you must seek a doctor and get proper diagnosis immediately. STD test kits can help you exclude heat rash and establish a herpes diagnosis on your own.