Understanding symptoms and seeing pictures of STDs can help people identify the signs and encourage them to see a doctor.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are on the rise. In 2017, researchers saw an increase in STDs for the
Most STDs are treatable, and many are curable. Early treatment significantly increases the likelihood of a good outcome. Prevention strategies and routine STD testing can help people avoid spreading these infections to their partners.
This article looks at the visual symptoms and other signs of common STDs.
Herpes is a virus that can affect many areas of the body, including the mouth and eyes. The sexually transmitted form of herpes most commonly affects the genitals.
Symptoms of herpes include:
- pain or unusual sensations on the genitals a few days before an outbreak
- an outbreak of red or swollen blisters
- blisters that are very painful and which eventually crust over
- feeling ill or having low energy during an outbreak
No treatment can cure herpes. However, antiviral drugs can make outbreaks less painful and potentially reduce the risk of spreading the infection to a partner.
HPV is a virus that causes genital warts. It also increases the risk of some cancers, including cervical and throat cancer. A vaccine can prevent the virus, and some children receive the vaccine around the age of 12.
Many people with HPV have no symptoms. In fact, the types of HPV most likely to cause cancer rarely cause symptoms. Those who do have symptoms may develop small warts on and around their genitals.
Pubic lice, also called crabs, are tiny insects that live in coarse hair, such as pubic hair. Pubic lice feed on a person’s blood.
They spread through close contact between people, or contact with clothing or other objects that have lice or eggs on them.
Symptoms of pubic lice include:
- itching in the pubic area, especially at night when the lice are most active
- red or swollen skin
- black spots in underwear
- gray or white spots in the pubic hair
People can treat pubic lice with medications that they can buy over the counter.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that affects both males and females. If left untreated in females, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause pelvic and stomach pain, and may even affect fertility.
Chlamydia can infect the vagina, penis, or rectum. Some people have no symptoms. Others experience:
- painful urination
- burning during or after sex
- unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum
- unusual bleeding
- less commonly, swelling of the testicles
Antibiotics can cure chlamydia.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can infect both males and females and can cause PID in females. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that spreads through sexual contact.
People with gonorrhea often have no symptoms at all. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
- unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
- pain when urinating
- pain in the stomach
- bleeding between periods
Gonorrhea can also affect other areas of the body, causing symptoms such as:
- pain and itching in the eyes
- a sore throat or swollen glands in the neck
- swelling, warmth, or redness in the joints
Treatment for gonorrhea usually involves antibiotics.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a bacterial infection that affects the vagina. Doctors do not know what causes it, but it is more common among sexually active women. This suggests that it may be sexually transmitted.
Many women with BV have no symptoms. Some experience itching or burning, which may resemble a yeast infection. Other BV symptoms include:
- a fishy odor, especially after having sex
- a thin, pale, grayish discharge from the vagina
- burning when peeing
BV may go away without treatment. It may also come back. Some women need antibiotics to treat BV.
Hepatitis is a virus that affects the liver. There are three types of hepatitis. Hepatitis A and B are sexually transmitted and highly contagious. Often, they do not cause symptoms, and a vaccination can protect against them.
Though it is uncommon, hepatitis C can also spread through sexual contact. Hepatitis C is a chronic illness that antivirals can sometimes cure.
The course of hepatitis and how treatable it is depends on the type of hepatitis a person has. The symptoms may go away on their own.
Symptoms of hepatitis include:
- very low energy
- unexplained stomach pain or pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
- joint pain
- very dark urine
- pale bowel movements
- yellow skin or eyes
(Video) How do you know if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
Trichomoniasis, sometimes called trich, is a parasite that spreads through sexual and close contact. Most people with trichomoniasis do not know they have it. If it is left untreated, the infection can last for years and may spread to sexual partners.
Symptoms of trichomoniasis include:
- pain during or after sex
- unusual discharge from the penis
- yellowish or greenish discharge from the vagina
- fishy smell from the genitals
- burning or red genitals
- a sore, burning sensation inside the vagina or penis
An oral medication can cure trichomoniasis. People with a previous infection may get the infection again. People who have trichomoniasis are also at higher risk of contracting another STD.
HIV damages immune system cells, which makes it progressively more difficult for the body to fight infections.
Left untreated, HIV increases the risk of serious complications or even death from otherwise minor infections. People can contract HIV through contact with blood or genital fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid.
Shortly after contracting HIV, 40 to 90 percent of people develop flu-like symptoms, including:
- painful sores in the mouth
- night sweats
- low energy
- muscle aches and pains
- swollen lymph nodes
Healthcare professionals can treat HIV using antiretroviral medication. This does not completely eradicate the virus but reduces the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels, meaning it is no longer possible to transmit it sexually.
Without antiretroviral treatment, HIV moves into a latency stage that may cause no noticeable symptoms and eventually progresses to stage 3 HIV, also known as AIDS. As the disease progresses, people become more vulnerable to illness. They may have frequent infections.
Symptoms of stage 3 HIV include:
- brown, pink, or red blotches on the skin of the mouth, eyelids, or nose
- unexplained weight loss
- night sweats
- frequent yeast or other infections
- diarrhea that lasts a week or longer
- sores on the genitals or mouth
- extreme tiredness
- swollen lymph nodes
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that people can spread through sexual contact. Left untreated, it can cause serious complications and even death. But in the early stages, syphilis is treatable with antibiotics.
In the early stages of syphilis, people may notice sores at the site where syphilis entered the body, which is often the genitals. The sores are typically:
- small and round
- In the second stage of syphilis, symptoms include:
- skin rash
- swollen lymph nodes
After the second stage, syphilis enters a latency period and might not cause symptoms. If syphilis enters the third and most serious stage of syphilis, it can affect the heart and brain.
See a doctor for any symptoms of an STD, especially if the symptoms do not go away on their own or cause intense pain. If a sexual partner has received a diagnosis for an STD, see a doctor for testing.
All adults and teens ages 13 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once.
Sexually active women younger than 25 years old, women who have multiple partners or who have a new sexual partner, should seek chlamydia and gonorrhea testing annually.
All pregnant women should pursue testing for HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis. Pregnant women at high risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea should get tested for these STDs, too.
Sexually active men who have sex with men should seek testing for syphilis and gonorrhea at least once a year. Men who have sex with anonymous partners or who have unprotected sex may need more frequent testing.
People who have sex without condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or who share drug equipment, should seek HIV testing at least annually.
Men who have sex with men should consult their doctors about HIV testing schedules. They may need testing every 3–6 months.
The outlook for STDs improves with treatment. Treatment can slow the progression and improve a person’s long-term health.
The right treatment depends on the diagnosis. It is essential for people diagnosed with an STD to use condoms during sexual activity and to tell any sexual partners about their status.
Preventive measures are very useful for reducing the frequency and impact of STDs. Taking PrEP can prevent a person from contracting HIV.
People who suspect they may have an STD may not want to see a doctor. However, knowing STD status is always the best option. The right diagnosis can ease an anxious mind, offer help finding the proper treatment, and prevent long-term complications.
Can you visually see if someone has an STD? ›
There's no way to tell by looking if a person has an STD — even people who have STDs sometimes don't know it. If you have had sex before, you and your boyfriend can get tested together at a local health clinic like Planned Parenthood.What do STD symptoms look like? ›
Symptoms in Men: Burning and itching at the tip of the penis, discharge, painful urination. Symptoms in Women: Vaginal itching, discharge that may have an odor, pain during sex, painful urination.Can you visibly see chlamydia? ›
Discharge – chlamydia doesn't normally cause signs that you can see on the skin of the vulva. Often however, there may be a change in vaginal discharge – changes are very variable, but usually there is more discharge than usual, and it may be mucousy, stringy or even blood stained, with pus.What is STD picture? ›
The STD Picture Cards are a combination of illustration and graphic photo representation of human male and female anatomy with sequelae related to sexually transmitted infection, particularly syphilis.Which physical signs shows presence of STD to a person? ›
- Changes in urination. An STI can be indicated by pain or a burning sensation during urination, the need to pee more frequently, or the presence of blood in the urine.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge. ...
- Itching in the vaginal area. ...
- Pain during sex. ...
- Abnormal bleeding. ...
- Rashes or sores.
- Pain when urinating. One of the most common signs of an STD involves pain when you pee. ...
- An itchy vagina. Another very common sign of an STD is vaginal itching. ...
- Discomfort during sex. ...
- Vaginal discharge that stinks or froths. ...
- Enlarged lymph nodes and glands. ...
- Lesions on the vagina. ...
- Rash. ...
- Abdominal pain.
Typical symptoms of gonorrhoea include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when peeing and, in women, bleeding between periods. But around 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women do not experience any symptoms.How does your body feel when you have a STD? ›
That said, there are some common symptoms of STDs, like itching, a burning sensation when you pee, and unusual and bad-smelling discharge. If you're noticing any of these, then you need to see a health care provider right away.When are the first signs of an STD? ›
Symptoms can develop within a few days or weeks, but sometimes they do not appear until months or even years later. Often there are few or no symptoms and you may not know you have an STI. If there's any chance you have an STI, go to a sexual health clinic or GP for a free and confidential check-up.What does early stages of chlamydia look like? ›
abnormal vaginal discharge (may be yellowish and have a strong smell) bleeding between periods. pus or a watery/milky discharge from the penis. swollen or tender testicles.
What are 5 symptoms of chlamydia? ›
- pain when urinating.
- unusual vaginal discharge.
- pain in the tummy or pelvis.
- pain during sex.
- bleeding after sex.
- bleeding between periods.
Signs of chlamydia if you have a vagina
White, yellow or gray discharge from your vagina that may be smelly. Pus in your urine (pyuria). Increased need to pee. Pain or a burning sensation when you pee (dysuria).
If passed through sexual contact, painless bumps appear on the abdomen, groin, genitals, buttocks, or thighs two weeks to six months after contact. Over several weeks the bumps become firm, waxy, pinkish-white and raised with a small crater in the centre. They usually disappear within six months.
In women, symptoms of gonorrhoea can include: an unusual vaginal discharge, which may be thin or watery and green or yellow in colour. pain or a burning sensation when passing urine. pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area – this is less common.What STDs can you carry without knowing? ›
- Chlamydia. Thomas BarwickGetty Images. ...
- Gonorrhea. Tom WernerGetty Images. ...
- HIV. Hero ImagesGetty Images. ...
- Genital Herpes. Jose Luis PelaezGetty Images. ...
- Trichomoniasis. Jose Luis Pelaez IncGetty Images. ...
- HPV. Caiaimage/Agnieszka WozniakGetty Images. ...
- Hepatitis B. Hero ImagesGetty Images.
Laboratory tests can diagnose chlamydia. Your healthcare provider may ask you to provide a urine sample for testing, or they might use (or ask you to use) a cotton swab to get a vaginal sample.What is syphilis rash? ›
The characteristic rash of secondary syphilis may appear as rough, red, or reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. However, rashes with a different appearance may occur on other parts of the body, sometimes resembling rashes caused by other diseases.What are the 2 main signs for gonorrhea and chlamydia? ›
For a chlamydia infection, a woman's vaginal discharge might have a strong odor and yellowish tint. Men might have a cloudy or clear discharge. With gonorrhea, both women and men may experience green, yellow, or white discharge.What are 4 symptoms of gonorrhea? ›
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women include:
- Increased vaginal discharge.
- Painful urination.
- Vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse.
- Abdominal or pelvic pain.
If an STD starts with a symptomatic STI, you might first experience: pain or discomfort during sexual activity or urination. sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the vagina, penis, testicles, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth.
What STD makes you physically sick? ›
Syphilis, HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and Hepatitis A all cause a spike in body temperature. If you're experiencing nausea and vomiting, it might not be the stomach flu or something you ate. Instead, it may very well be HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis C, or Hepatitis A.How long can an STD last inside the body? ›
Several of the more than 20 types of STDs can lie dormant for months, years, or even decades.Which STD takes the longest to show symptoms? ›
- Gonorrhea – One to 28 days.
- Genital and oral herpes – Two to 12 days.
- Trichomoniasis – Five to 28 days.
- Chlamydia – One to three weeks.
- HIV – Two to four weeks.
- Hepatitis B – Eight to 22 weeks.
- HPV – One month to 10 years.
- Syphilis – Three weeks to 20 years.
- pain or burning during urination.
- a need to urinate more frequently.
- pain during ejaculation.
- abnormal discharge from the penis, particularly colored or foul-smelling discharge.
- bumps, blisters, or sores on the penis or genitals.
Late-stage chlamydia refers to an infection that has spread to other parts of the body. For example, it may have spread to the cervix (cervicitis), testicular tubes (epididymitis), eyes (conjunctivitis), or throat (pharyngitis), causing inflammation and pain.How do you know if you have an STD without getting tested? ›
- an unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus.
- pain when peeing.
- lumps or skin growths around the genitals or bottom (anus)
- a rash.
- unusual vaginal bleeding.
- itchy genitals or anus.
- blisters and sores around your genitals or anus.
- warts around your genitals or anus.
If untreated, chlamydia can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the reproductive organs. PID can cause damage in your fallopian tubes.What is the earliest you can detect chlamydia? ›
In as little as one day, chlamydia may show up in your system, but testing should be done at least five days after exposure. It is recommended you retest two weeks after treatment to make sure you are free of the infection.How can you tell if a man has chlamydia? ›
- Small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of your penis.
- Painful urination.
- Burning and itching around the opening of your penis.
- Pain and swelling around your testicles.
How is chlamydia diagnosed? Diagnose chlamydia with nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), cell culture, and other types of tests. NAATs are the most sensitive tests to use on easy-to-obtain specimens. This includes vaginal swabs (either clinician- or patient-collected) or urine.
What STD causes back pain? ›
In addition to lower abdominal pain, chlamydia can also cause lower back pain. This pain may feel similar to the lower back pain that's associated with urinary tract infections.What STD shows on skin? ›
Syphilis, condyloma acuminata, and scabies are well-known STIs with cutaneous manifestations. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can also cause specific muco-cutaneous signs and symptoms. HIV often manifests itself through skin conditions.Are STDs like pimples? ›
STDs can cause bumps, rashes, sores, or lesions which a person may easily confuse for minor skin conditions. STDs that cause pimple-like skin problems include: Genital herpes – A viral infection that can cause patches of fluid-filled sores that can become open, ooze fluids, and crust over.Can Herpe bumps be tiny? ›
Herpes sores usually form around the genital area a few days after you are exposed to the virus. The sores usually start as tiny, clear blisters.What is the first noticeable signs of gonorrhea? ›
- Thick, cloudy or bloody discharge from the penis or vagina.
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods.
- Painful, swollen testicles.
- Painful bowel movements.
- Anal itching.
This photograph depicted a close view of a patient's penis revealing a condition referred to as bull-headed clap, which is gonorrhea involving marked penile edema, caused by the Gram-negative bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This condition represents a case of paraurethral swelling and penile erythema.What are the 5 symptoms of gonorrhea? ›
- greater frequency or urgency of urination.
- a pus-like discharge or drip from your penis (this discharge could be yellow, white, beige, or greenish)
- discoloration and swelling at the penis opening.
- testicular swelling or pain.
- itching and soreness in your anus.
- rectal bleeding or discharge.
- a blood sample (from either a blood draw or a finger prick)
- a urine sample.
- a swab of the inside of the mouth.
- a swab from the genitals, such as the urethra in guys or the cervix in girls.
- a swab of any discharge or sores.
It depends on which sexually transmitted infection (STI) you have. Symptoms can develop within a few days or weeks, but sometimes they do not appear until months or even years later. Often there are few or no symptoms and you may not know you have an STI.How do you know if someone has an STD? ›
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina.
- Sores or warts on the genital area.
- Painful or frequent urination.
- Itching and redness in the genital area.
- Blisters or sores in or around the mouth.
- Abnormal vaginal odor.
How quickly do STD symptoms appear? ›
Depending on the specific pathogen (disease-causing organism) symptoms of STD may appear within four to five days — or four to five weeks. Some infections might yield noticeable symptoms even months after the initial infection.How long can STD go undetected? ›
Some STDs have symptoms, but many don't, so they can go unnoticed for a long time. For example, it can take more than 10 years for HIV symptoms to show up, and infections like herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can be spread even if there are no symptoms.What is the longest that an STD can show up? ›
This question is often difficult to answer. There are more than 20 types of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs), and many do not cause noticeable symptoms. In other cases, symptoms may not develop until several months or even years after exposure.What are the odds of having an STD and not knowing? ›
Many people have been reported to have silent STDs; STDs without symptoms. According to some studies, about 60 percent of patients suffering from any STD have no symptoms.How can you tell if a girl has chlamydia? ›
Laboratory tests can diagnose chlamydia. Your healthcare provider may ask you to provide a urine sample for testing, or they might use (or ask you to use) a cotton swab to get a vaginal sample.How do you know you have an STD without checking? ›
- Clear, white, greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge.
- Discharge from the penis.
- Strong vaginal odor.
- Vaginal itching or irritation.
- Itching or irritation inside the penis.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Painful urination.