Symptoms and Signs of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

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Medically Reviewed on 9/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Symptoms, List, Types, and Testing

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diseases (infections) that involve the transmission of an infectious organism between sex partners during any sexual activity. Signs and symptoms depend on what type of infectious organism infects the person (bacteria, viruses, protozoan, fungus, or parasite). There are too many specific infectious organisms to list here with their possible signs and symptoms, but the common signs and symptoms for each type of STD will be mentioned. The reader is advised to get details by searching the name of the infecting pathogen. The same is true for treatments of STDs.

Bacterial: urethral or vaginal discharge, pain with urination, ulcers on genitals (some painful, some not painful), abscesses and/or fistulas in the groin, and others like rash, fever, headache, and joint pains

Viral: recurring blistering sores on the genitals, warts on the genitals, jaundice, and flu-like symptoms, liver failure, and HIV symptoms and signs like fatigue, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, rashes, weight loss, cough, headaches, and diarrhea

Protozoan: frothy vaginal discharge with a strong odor

Fungi: reddish itchy groin skin, cheese-like vaginal discharge, and burning and itching of the penis or vagina (please note, not always an STD as many are acquired without sexual contact)

Parasites: visible tiny bugs in the pubic hair, intense itching especially at night (please note, not always caused by sexual contact)

Causes of STDs are the transmission of infectious pathogens by any type of sexual contact with an uninfected sexual partner.

What Are the Treatments for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?

In general, treatments for STDs are based on the cause of the disease. The following is not an all-inclusive list, and the reader is urged to look up the possible treatments for specific STDs:

  • Viral causes: antivirals like acyclovir or antiretrovirals like a HIV combination drug therapy
  • Bacterial causes: antibiotics like penicillin or doxycycline
  • Fungal causes: antifungals like clotrimazole or miconazole
  • Protozoan causes: nitroimidazoles like metronidazole or tinidazole
  • Parasite causes: nitroimidazoles like metronidazole or tinidazole or an insecticide like permethrin

Again, the reader is advised to look up the specific treatments for a STD.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.