STD Symptoms

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
August 13, 2019
STD Symptoms

Don’t take chances. Partners may infect you because they are careless or don’t have any STD symptoms and think they’re fine, or you may not know you have one.

You may not know when you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD). But you can still infect your partners. That also works in reverse: Your partners can infect you without knowing that they carry the infection. STD symptoms often aren’t obvious.

An untreated STD also increases your risk of picking up another one through a sore or immune response in your genital area, and some STDs have serious consequences.

Using condoms helps, but you still need to get screened regularly if you are having sex.


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STD symptoms of chlamydia

Early-stage chlamydia, a bacterial infection, tends to be invisible. But mild symptoms may appear one to three weeks after exposure and quickly go away. You might have painful urination, lower abdominal pain, a discharge from your genitals, and bleeding between periods. Women may feel pain during intercourse. Men may feel pain in their testes.


This bacterial infection can grow around your genitals or in your mouth, throat, eyes, and anus. The first gonorrhea symptoms might appear within 10 days after exposure, but they sometimes take months to appear.

You might see a thick, cloudy, or bloody discharge from your penis or vagina, and your anus may itch. Men might have painfully swollen testes.

Both men and women may find urination painful. You may have painful bowel movements. Women may bleed more heavily during their periods or bleed in between.


Trichomoniasis is a parasite that often creates no symptoms in men. But men might feel an itch or irritation inside the penis and see a discharge, within five to 28 days from exposure. Women might see a clear, white, greenish, or yellowish vaginal discharge and develop a vaginal odor, itching, and painful urination.


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) makes your body unable to fight off other viruses or bacteria and fungi. It can lead to AIDS, a chronic illness.

Some people experience symptoms within two to six weeks of infection. You might have a fever, headache, sore throat, swollen glands, and feel tired. You might see a rash. When symptoms go away within a week or month, people assume they’ve had the flu.

More persistent or severe symptoms may be years or a decade or more away. By then, you’ll be losing weight, coughing, and have fever and diarrhea. Later, people develop persistent, unexplained fatigue, night sweats, shaking chills or fever, swollen lymph nodes, chronic diarrhea and headaches, and unusual infections.

Genital herpes

Herpes are frequently invisible at first. The herpes simplex virus enters through small breaks in your skin or mucous membranes, and you might never know it is there. If you have a flare-up, usually within a few weeks of infection, your first episode will probably be the worst. You may never have another one, or you might have recurrences over decades.

The first symptom is pain or itching. A few days later, you may see small red bumps, which eventually rupture and ooze or bleed. In women, the sores can erupt in your vaginal area, outer lips, buttocks, or anus. In men, sores can appear on your penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus or thighs, or inside your penis.

It may be painful to urinate. You may feel like you have a flu, with headache, muscle aches, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in your groin.

It is essential not to have sexual contact when you have visible sores. But you can infect people even when you have no sores.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and genital warts

HPV is common and dangerous. It can lead to cervical cancer. HPV usually doesn’t make itself obvious. Some forms lead to warts, flesh-colored or gray swellings in your genital area. Several close together can resemble cauliflower. You might itch, and women might bleed during intercourse.

You could also have warts so small you don’t notice them. Besides the genitals and anus, warts can develop in your mouth or throat.

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C

These conditions are contagious viral infections that harm your liver. Hepatitis A is the least serious. You may never know you have hepatitis.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain on the right side beneath your lower ribs
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Itching
  • Yellowing skin or eyeballs

(See our hepatitis B and hepatitis C articles for more information.)


Syphilis is a bacterium, not a virus, that can affect your brain and heart, as well as your skin, mucous membranes, and genitals. Women can pass syphilis to an unborn child, giving it a life-threatening disease.

There are four stages.

  • Primary syphilis is a small, painless sore or a few sores that appear from 10 days to three months after exposure, typically on your genitals, rectum, tongue, or lips. Three to six weeks after that first sore, you may have a red or reddish-brown rash of penny-sized sores on any surface of your body.
  • With secondary syphilis, you’ll feel fatigued and ache, and you may have enlarged lymph nodes. The rash may come and go for as long as a year. It may never reappear.
  • Without treatment, the bacteria may spread and appear as tertiary syphilis.
  • You could end up with paralysis, blindness, dementia, and damage to your nervous system — called neurosyphilis — that affects your behavior.


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June 27, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN