Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections you can get from vaginal, anal, or oral sex. People refer to them as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) too. Some are transmissible through non-penetrative sex, as well, such as genito-genital frottage or genital rubbing. You may acquire an STD whether you're a straight or gay individual, and regardless of being married or not. Also, using a condom doesn't provide you with exclusive protection against STIs, even when you use it properly and responsibly. Another method you can acquire an STD with is sex toys when used without protection. Surprisingly, kissing may expose you to STIs too.
STDs may present with or without symptoms. When they are symptomatic, you can easily confuse them with other kinds of infections or medical conditions, because the symptomatology is often very generic. Other times, an STI may pass unnoticed not because there are non-obvious signs, but because you didn't notice them. Finally, some cases develop insidiously, and they remain asymptomatic for a long time. If you got exposed to an STD and you know it, you and your sexual partner(s) should get tested for it. There are cases in which symptoms come and go, interrupted by 'honey-moon' periods that lack obvious signs. Such an example is syphilis and its stages.
If you think you have an STD, you must get tested for it as soon as possible, because when it comes to sexually transmitted infections, time is money. You can use an easy-to-use and reliable STD rapid kit test, which will instantly provide results. Keep in mind that the sooner you get evaluated, the better your response to the treatment. Most STIs are curable, and in some cases, timing is essential. Such an example is hepatitis C in which early diagnosis and treatment of HCV infection within the first 6 months, lower the chances of chronic progression.
Another fact relevant to STDs is the concept of the co-infection. Leaving an STI untreated, you increase your chances of acquiring a second one, such as HIV. Also, sexually transmitted diseases raise your risk for certain types of cancers or other life-threatening conditions. STDs' complications are hard to imagine because they may affect different and distant organs in the human body. They might sound extravagant and irrelevant, but they do occur in people who didn't take their STI seriously. A very relevant example is neurosyphilis. It is a complication of syphilis that may occur at any stage and affects the nervous system.
STIs without symptoms
Some STDs do not appear with symptoms until it's very late. This not only increases your chances of serious complications but transforms you into an active source of infection that transmits the disease to people unwittingly. Therefore, it is essential to use a condom and get tested for STIs every time you expose yourself to them. Regular screening protects you from asymptomatic infections turning into potentially irreversible conditions. It is crucial to keep in mind that a lack of symptoms does not equal a lack of STDs.
Below are some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and their symptoms. You can detect all of them at home with an STD rapid kit test, either with a cotton swab or a small pinch to your finger. After you do so, consult your doctor in case of positive results to one or more STDs.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea symptoms
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both bacterial infections of your genital tract. They are often asymptomatic, but when symptomatic, they can be very similar. Chlamydia affects only your genital tract, whereas gonorrhea may affect your mouth, eyes, throat, or anus too. Signs are usually easy to overlook, and it may take time until they show up. Common symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea may include:
- discharge from the penis or the vagina
- pain or burning sensation upon urination
- heavy or intermittent menstrual bleeding
- painful sex in women
- pain in the testicles
- abdominal pain or discomfort
Gonorrhea may affect the anal or oral cavity, too, causing anal pain, itching, bleeding, or discharge while passing stool. Difficulty swallowing, itching, or swollen neck lymph nodes might also occur. Finally, it may affect the eyes, causing light sensitivity, eye pain, or discharge from the eyes resembling pus.
Syphilis is a potentially deadly disease that is, however, very easy to treat. It consists of four stages that keep progressing in the lack of treatment. The early stages of the disease are easy to overlook. The 1st stage presents with a painless, round, and firm sore, which represents the source of the infection. Its location may be on or around the genitals or mouth, according to the sexual activity. Secondary syphilis may present with a rash, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Following is the tertiary stage, which is usually asymptomatic. Finally, latent syphilis affects multiple organs and can lead to death.
Genital herpes (HSV-2) symptoms
HSV-2 infection enters your body through small erosions of the skin or mucous membranes. Usually, it is asymptomatic, and people with genital herpes are unaware they have it. When it causes symptomatic episodes, the first one is the worst and might not be preceded by a second one. Others have recurrent outbreaks for life. A typical HSV-2 exacerbation presents with some of the following:
- Small red pimples, blisters, or ulcers in the genital and anal areas, or around them
- Pain or itching around in the genital area and anal areas, or inner thighs
Hepatitis B and C symptoms
Hepatitis B and C are liver infections that are transmissible through blood, unprotected sex, and pregnancy. They can be acute or chronic, raising the risk for liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular cancer. Although there is a preventive vaccine for hepatitis B, HCV infection remains without, putting individuals of any social background at high risk. They are usually asymptomatic but may present with symptoms during the acute phase, such as:
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal pain or discomfort
- jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and the eyes)
- dark urine
- pruritus (itching)
- musculoskeletal pain
Early-stage HIV symptoms
HIV infection lowers your natural immunity against other bacteria, fungi, and viruses. You may be asymptomatic or develop a flu-like condition around two to six weeks after the initial infection. Therefore, the only way to find out if you have HIV is to get tested. If it progresses, it can lead to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known as AIDS. Keep in mind that you are highly infectious, even in the absence of symptoms, and you may not progress into a severe stage for years. As time goes by, your immune cells get less and less. As a result, you start having signs of chronic illness, along with opportunistic infections.
Late-stage HIV symptoms
Late-stage HIV is a life-threatening condition that develops gradually towards the death of the individual. Some symptoms include the following:
- Persistent fatigue and opportunistic infections
- Night sweats and chronic diarrhea
- Chills or fever that lasts for a long time
- Long-term swelling of the lymph nodes
- Persistent, unexplained headaches
Most people die due to opportunistic infections, meaning that these germs wouldn't severely affect a healthy individual.