The Most Common STDs in Women and Men and Their Symptoms
STD Diseases & Symptoms

The Most Common STDs in Women and Men and Their Symptoms

Everyone who engages in sex, whether oral, anal or vaginal, is vulnerable to STDs or sexually transmitted diseases.

Anyone can contract STDs, either straight, gay, married or single. Although STDs can be avoided by having protected sex using condoms, this is not a full proof method. A sexually active person who experiences any STD symptoms should consult a doctor immediately to get treated. Partners should also be informed, evaluated and treated, if required.

Common STDs

Gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, HIV infection and AIDs are some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases seen in both men and women. Although STD symptoms vary depending upon the type of the disease, the most common symptoms of STDs include:

  • genital itching
  • thick, cloudy or bloody discharge from the genitals
  • lower abdominal pain
  • testicular pain in men
  • painful bowel movements
  • abnormal menstrual bleeding in women
  • soreness
  • painful, swollen testicles in men
  • lumps
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • and flu-like symptoms.

Genital Herpes Symptoms

Genital herpes is caused by a special type of virus known as the herpes simplex virus or HSV. This is one of the most highly contagious STDs. The virus enters the body of the host through skin or mucous membranes.

Generally, the symptoms of genital herpes are subtle and often go unnoticed. Pain and itching in the genital area, buttocks and thighs are common signs of genital herpes, along with blisters or ulcers in the genitalia. During the initial infection, some people experience flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes near the groin.

Symptoms of Genital Warts

Genital warts represent another common STD caused by the human papilloma virus or HPV. Common symptoms of genital warts include bleeding during intercourse, swelling in the genitalia and itching. Sometimes several warts form together, creating a shape similar to a cauliflower. Genital warts can also occur in the mouth and throat of a person who indulges in oral sex with an infected person.

Chlamydia Symptoms

Chlamydia is a bacterium that often infects the genital tract. Early infection shows mild or no symptoms so the affected person often overlooks it. Common symptoms of the chlamydia infection include lower abdominal pain, painful urination, discharge from penis and vagina and pain in the genitals.

Gonorrhea Symptoms and HIV Infection Symptoms

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is also caused by bacterial infection of the genital tract. The most common symptom of gonorrhea is cloudy or bloody discharge from the vagina or penis along with frequent urination. Other symptoms include painful intercourse and a burning sensation during urinating.

The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV virus interferes with the body’s immune system, making it susceptible to other secondary infections, which can eventually lead to AIDS, a life-threatening disease. Early symptoms of HIV are usually normal viral infections including fever, sore throat, headache and swollen lymph nodes. As the infections persist, multiple infections like diarrhea, weight loss, chills and fever are noticed.

How are STDs treated?

The treatment of a STD varies depending on the type of STD. Some STDs require a person to take antibiotic medication either by mouth or by injection; other STDs require a person to apply creams or special solutions on the skin. Some STDs, such as genital herpes and HIV (which leads to AIDS), cannot be cured, but only controlled with medication.

How can I protect myself from STDs?

  • Use a condom!
  • talk with/examine your partner
  • limit your number of sexual partners
  • practice monogamy
  • choose your sex partners with care
  • know the signs and symptoms of STDs
  • don't share vibrators or other sex toys
  • think about your alcohol and drug use

Local STD Testing and STD Information

A person with an STD should seek immediate medical help. Local health departments are the best places to have testing for STDs. Many counties also run free STD clinics for their local citizens. Anonymous STD testing is also available in certain clinics. National HIV and STD Testing Resources help STD patients to locate HIV and STD testing and STD vaccine centers around the United States.

The American Social Health Association, Center for Young Women’s Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are some of the reputed organizations that offer information on STD and sexual health.

Prevention is always better than cure. Safe sex, regular STD screening and Pap tests for women between 21 and 66 years help to prevent STDs to a great extent. STD vaccination is now also available to prevent two specific STDs: HPV and Hepatitis B. Once a person is diagnosed with a STD, his/her sexual partner should also be informed so that he/she can have the STD diagnosed and treated if required.

Mark Riegel, MD

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