What Happens If You Get an STD?

Reviewed on 8/13/2021

STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infections, STIs) are common illnesses you can get through sexual activity with an infected person. STD symptoms vary depending on the condition. Some cause more obvious signs such as genital sores or unusual discharge, but not always. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infections, STIs) are common illnesses you can get through sexual activity with an infected person. STD symptoms vary depending on the condition. Some cause more obvious signs such as genital sores or unusual discharge, but not always. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.

STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs) are common illnesses spread from person-to-person through sexual activity such as vaginal, oral, or anal sex. 

If you get an STD, symptoms vary depending on the infection. 

Gonorrhea may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of gonorrhea occur, they may include:

Chlamydia may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of chlamydia occur, they may include:

  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal or penile discharge
  • Rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding from anal infection
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles in men (less common)

Hepatitis symptoms may include: 

Herpes may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of genital or oral herpes occur, they may include:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of human papillomavirus (HPV) occur, they may include genital warts.

  • Syphilis symptoms vary by stage. 
  • Primary stage syphilis symptoms include:
    • Single sore or multiple sores
    • Sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless
  • Secondary stage syphilis symptoms include:
  • In latent stage syphilis, no visible signs or symptoms are present
  • Not everyone with untreated syphilis will develop tertiary syphilis
    • This stage is very serious and can affect many organ systems including the heart and blood vessels, and the brain and nervous system
    • Can be fatal

Trichomoniasis may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of trichomoniasis occur, they may include:

  • Pus-filled thin vaginal discharge with a foul odor (may appear green-yellow and frothy)
  • Clear or runny penile discharge 
  • Burning
  • Soreness
  • Itching
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Urinary frequency
  • Painful sexual intercourse 
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Mild itching or burning sensation in the penis after sexual intercourse
  • Vulvar redness
  • Preterm delivery, and delivery of a low-birth-weight infant in pregnant women

Babies born to mothers who have trichomoniasis may become infected during delivery. Symptoms of trichomoniasis in newborns include: 

Complications of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) may include:

How Are STDs Diagnosed?

STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are diagnosed with a patient history which includes a patient’s sexual history, and a physical examination. 

Doctors check for STDs with tests such as: 

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Swabs to collect samples from the vagina, urethra, throat, or rectum

Women are screened for cervical cancer every time they get a Pap test (sometimes called a "Pap smear") which can detect HPV.

What Is the Treatment for STDs?

Treatment for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) may vary depending on the infection. 

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are treated with antibiotics

  • Sexual partners should also be treated
  • Sex should be avoided until both the patient and partner have been treated
  • Patients should be re-tested about three months after their diagnosis because many people are re-infected from untreated sexual partners

Hepatitis A and B are treated with: 

  • Rest
  • Fluids
  • Proper nutrition
  • Hospitalization (severe cases)

Herpes is treated with: 

There is no treatment for human papillomavirus (HPV) (genital warts) but in some cases, HPV will go away on its own. Treatments for health problems caused by HPV include:

  • Prescription medication for genital warts
  • Cervical precancer treatments
  • Other HPV-related cancers are also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early

Trichomoniasis is treated with antibiotic/antiprotozoal medications. 

  • The recommended treatments are metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax)
  • Sexual partners should also be treated
  • Sex should be avoided until both the patient and partner have been treated
  • Follow-up testing is recommended to make sure patients are cured

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Reviewed on 8/13/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/chlamydia-beyond-the-basics?search=Chlamydia&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/gonorrhea-beyond-the-basics?search=Gonorrhea&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2#H13

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/genital-herpes-the-basics?search=herpes&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/human-papillomavirus-hpv-the-basics?search=HPV&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/syphilis-the-basics?search=Syphilis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/trichomoniasis?search=Trichomoniasis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~87&usage_type=default&display_rank=1