Stay calm and get the facts

If you’re worried that you or your partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD), read on for the information you need to recognize the symptoms.

Some STDs have no symptoms or only mild ones. If you’re concerned but don’t see symptoms identified here, check with your doctor to discuss your STD risks and appropriate testing.

Although 70 to 90 percent of women and 90 percent of men with chlamydia have no symptoms, this STD sometimes produces a mucus-like or pus-like vaginal discharge. With trichomoniasis, or “trich,” the vaginal discharge looks frothy or foamy, and it has a strong, unpleasant odor.

A yellowish or yellow-green vaginal discharge can be a symptom of gonorrhea, although 4 out of 5 women infected with this bacterial STD will have no symptoms at all.

The body usually clears a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection naturally within two years. However, not all strains can be removed by the body. Some strains of HPV can also cause genital warts.

The warts vary in size and appearance, and they can be:

  • flat
  • raised
  • large
  • small

In some cases, warts caused by HPV resemble cauliflower.

Gonorrhea produces a white, yellow, or greenish discharge from the penis. Men who have chlamydia symptoms may have pus-like discharge from the penis, or the fluid may be watery or milky looking.

Men usually don’t have symptoms of trichomoniasis, but the parasitic infection can cause discharge from the penis in men who do exhibit symptoms.

Blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth may signal an outbreak of herpes simplex virus. These blisters break and produce painful sores, which take several weeks to heal.

A single, round, firm, painless sore is the first symptom of syphilis, a bacterial STD. The sore can appear wherever the bacteria entered the body, including the

  • external genitals
  • vagina
  • anus
  • rectum
  • lips
  • mouth

One sore appears at first, but multiple sores may appear later.

Without treatment, syphilis progresses to the secondary stage. Rashes or sores in mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, or anus occur during this stage. The rash may look red or brown, and usually doesn’t itch.

It can appear on the palms or soles of the feet, or as a general rash on the body. Large gray or white lesions may appear in moist areas in the groin, under the arms, or in the mouth.

Epididymitis is the clinical term for pain and swelling in one or both testicles. Men infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea may experience this symptom.

Chlamydia can infect the rectum in men and women. In these cases, symptoms may include rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding.

Rectal symptoms of gonorrhea include pain and itching in the anus, as well as bleeding, discharge, and painful bowel movements.

Pain, pressure, or burning during or after urination, or more frequent urination may be a symptom of chlamydia, trichomoniasis, or gonorrhea in women.

Because gonorrhea in women often produces no symptoms or only mild signs that can be confused with a bladder infection, it’s important not to ignore painful urination. In men, either trichomoniasis or gonorrhea may cause painful urination. Pain after ejaculation also may occur in men infected with trichomoniasis.

Many STDs can be treated and cured. If you’re concerned about any of these symptoms, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.