5 common STDs and their symptoms

How do you know if you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? Depending on the infection, it’s not always easy. STDs don’t always cause symptoms, so it’s really important to get regular screenings from your provider. This is the best way to make sure that you stay on top of your STD status.

It doesn’t hurt to know the typical symptoms of more common STDs. This way, if you ever do notice symptoms that are unfamiliar and might suggest an STD, you’ll be able to go to your provider and get tested (or treated) faster. Here are 5 of the more common STDs, and some physical symptoms they might cause.


This STD is caused by bacteria passed through sexual contact. Possible symptoms include pain when urinating, pain during sex, spotting between periods, testicular pain in men, and lower abdominal pain. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause chronic pelvic pain, an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.


Gonorrhea is a disease spread via sexual contact, and can infect multiple parts of the body including the genitals, rectum and throat. It doesn’t always cause symptoms, but some symptoms of gonorrhea include pain or burning when urinating, excessive vaginal discharge, and spotting outside of one’s period. If gonorrhea isn’t treated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to damaged fallopian tubes and even infertility.


According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trichomoniasis is the most common type of STD that is also curable. This infection is caused by a parasite. Some people with this condition report changes in their vaginal discharge, like discharge that smells bad, is excessive, or is a yellow-green color. Sometimes it also causes extreme vulvar itching or irritation. Again, regular screenings are the only way to know for sure. If trichomoniasis isn’t treated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and increases a pregnant woman’s risk of premature delivery.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a virus that spreads through sexual contact. Most people think the telltale signs of genital herpes are the sores that break out after infection. But genital herpes doesn’t always cause breakouts. Some people have recurrent episodes of breakouts; others never have one. When people do have symptoms, they usually start with pain or irritation of the genitals, followed by the appearance of small red bumps that break open and ooze pus or bleed. In time, the ulcers scab over and heal. Untreated genital herpes can lead to more severe breakouts, as well as a risk of the infection spreading or of spreading herpes to the baby during pregnancy.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis is a condition characterized by liver inflammation. There are three types of hepatitis, and one – hepatitis B – is the one that is most commonly passed through sexual contact. The more common signs and symptoms of hepatitis are a fever, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, muscle or joint pain, and a loss of appetite. Some people also have jaundice, which is characterized by the yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes. Untreated hepatitis B can cause liver scarring, liver failure, and even cancer. Antiviral medications can help treat hepatitis B, or if needed, patients may sometimes be eligible and able to get a liver transplant.

Sometimes, STDs do cause symptoms, and their presence means it’s time to get tested and treated. But it’s not uncommon for symptoms to be vague or completely absent. When it comes to wondering how you can be on the lookout for any symptoms of an STD, the truth is that frequent screening by your primary care provider are the best way to understand and maintain your sexual health.

  • “Gonorrhea – Fact Sheet.” CDC.gov. US Department of Health and Human Services, May 19 2016. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “STD Symptoms: Common STDs and their symptoms.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
  • “Trichomonas – Fact Sheet.” CDC.gov. US Department of Health and Human Services, May 20 2016. Web.

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