Early signs of STD – 8 Important Points To Understand

Introduce to Early signs of STD 

Early signs of STD is Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which include the transmission of an organism between sexual partners through different routes of sexual contact, either oral, anal, or vaginal.

STIs pose a significant burden on healthcare, as their incidence continues to rise despite various awareness campaigns. These infections often go untreated and can cause severe complications including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, blindness, and death.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.4 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis were reported in 2018. A maximum number of these patients had chlamydia infections.

Although STIs majorly have anogenital presentations, these may also involve skin, eye, oral cavity, etc. Therefore, identifying early signs of these infections is highly important for your sexual health. Be cautious of any physical change, no matter how small they appear. Talk to your healthcare professional, if you experience any new symptom.

Here, are the Early Signs of STD :

1.Uncommon discharge from the penis

One of the Early signs of STD  is considered, as a classic symptom in men infected with STI. It is crucial to notify this symptom your doctor at the earliest for reaching up to a correct diagnosis.

Various infections causing unusual discharge from the penis include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Trichomoniasis

However, these diagnoses can be treated with the help of antibiotics, thus, adherence to prescribed medications is essential.

Moreover, if you come in sexual contact again with your partner, you may acquire STIs again, especially if your partner was not treated at the same time as you were.

2.Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding

Abnormal or unusual vaginal discharge can be a symptom of various conditions as not all of these diseases can be sexually transmitted; discharge can also be due to sexually associated infections such as bacterial vaginosis.

Some vaginal discharge can occur normally throughout the menstrual cycle. Talk to your doctor, if you experience changes in your vaginal discharge including a change in colour or bad smell.

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For example, discharge that occurs due to trichomoniasis is often green, frothy, and foul-smelling while gonorrhoea discharge may be yellow and tinged with blood.

3.Burning or itching in the vaginal area

Burning or itching in the vaginal area is not always a symptom of STIs; it can also be caused by non-STI bacterial or yeast infection. Infections such as bacterial vaginosis and pubic lice can cause itching and often need treatment.

Consult your doctor about any sensation changes in your vaginal area.

4. Urinary changes

Several conditions can mimic burning or pain during urination such as urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Hence, testing is essential, if you have pain or other symptoms such as change in the color of urine during urination to detect its underlying cause.

Various infections responsible for causing burning or pain during urination include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Genital Herpes.

5. Pain during sex

Although occasional pain during sex is quite common among women, this symptom often gets underestimated in regard to STIs.

However, talk to your doctor, if you experience pain during sex. Also discuss whether the intensity of pain has changed, or has it started while intercourse with a new partner. Additionally, answer questions such as does this pain started with a change in sexual habits or does it occur during ejaculation in men.

6. Bumps or sores

Different types of bumps and sores near the mouth or genitals are the first evident signs of STIs including:

  • Genital Herpes
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Syphilis
  • Molloscum contagiosum.

Discuss these with your doctor even if they go away before your visit, for example, herpes sores, typically go away within a week or so, but the infection is contagious even in the absence of sores.

7. Pain in the pelvic or abdominal region

Pelvic pain can be an early sign of several diseases, however, if the pain is uncommon or intense, discuss it with your doctor.

It has been observed that the majority of causes of pelvic pain are not associated with STIs. Contrary to this, severe pelvic pain in women is sometimes can be due to pelvic inflammatory disease, occurring as a complication of untreated asymptomatic STIs.

8. Nonspecific symptoms

Sexually transmitted disease like any other disease can cause many nonspecific symptoms, caused by a number of illnesses.

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Nonspecific symptoms occurring due to STIs and related conditions are:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Rashes
  • Weight Loss.

Although these symptoms on their own, may not cause suspicion of an STI, if you think you are at risk for an STI, consult your doctor.

Common sign and symptoms of various sexually transmitted diseases

HIV

You may not notice anything when you get infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or can have flu like symptoms like malaise, fatigue, anorexia, fever, chills, arthralgias, myalgias, or cutaneous presentations.

Early symptoms of HIV often disappear within a week to a month and ca be misread as viral infection. However, you are highly infectious during this period.

Chlamydia 

Chlamydia, a bacterial infection of your genital tract can be difficult to diagnose as early-stage infections often cause few or no signs and symptoms.

In females, it may present with vaginal discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding, lower pelvic pain, urinary frequency, or dysuria. In presence of systemic infection, you may have a fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and malaise.

In men, the most common presenting symptoms are dysuria, testicular pain and pain while defecation.

Chlamydia
Chlamydia

HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV), one of the most common STIs has usually no sign and symptom.

Most complaints are cosmetic in nature or an incidental finding due to the asymptomatic nature of HPV types 6 and 11.

Moreover, the appearance of genital warts can also detect HPV. The signs of genital warts are:

  • Small, flesh-coloured or grey swellings in your genital area
  • Itching or discomfort in your genital area
  • Bleeding while intercourse.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Gonorrhoea

It is a bacterial infection of your genital tract and can its manifestations in your mouth, throat, eyes and anus. Although the first symptom of gonorrhoea usually appears within 10 days after exposure, some patients may be infected for months before signs or symptoms occur.

In females, it may present with dysuria, urgency, urinary frequency, lower pelvic pain, and abnormal vaginal bleeding.

In males, it may present with testicular pain, dysuria, purulent discharge from meatus and pain while defecation.

Besides, some systemic signs include sore throat, or redness of eyes, joint pain, cutaneous lesions, etc.

Gonorrhoea
Gonorrhoea

Syphilis

Syphilis, a bacterial infection can affect your genitals, skin and mucous membranes, and other parts of your body, including your brain and your heart.

The signs and symptoms of syphilis may occur in three stages; primary, secondary, and tertiary syphilis.

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Read more: guide-to-a-healthy-heart

The first sign of syphilis may include only a small, painless sore, also known as a chancre at the site of infection, usually the genitals, rectum, tongue or lips.

However, the progression of the disease can cause the following symptoms:

  • Rash marked by red or reddish-brown, penny-sized sores over any area of your body, including your palms and soles
  • Fever
  • Fatigue and a vague feeling of discomfort
  • Soreness and aching.
Syphilis
Syphilis

HSV

Genital herpes, a highly contagious STI is caused by a type of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that enters your body through small breaks in your skin or mucous membranes.

Generally, patients with HSV are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, which often go unnoticed.

Some signs and symptoms of genital herpes signs and symptoms may include:

  • Small red bumps, blisters (vesicles) or open sores (ulcers) in the genital and anal areas and areas nearby
  • Pain or itching around the genital area, buttocks and inner thighs
  • Flu-like such as headache, muscle aches and fever, etc.

Therefore, if you are experiencing any of the abovementioned symptoms or suspect that you could have been exposed to any form of STIs, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Early diagnosis followed by a prompt treatment is essential to prevent severe, potentially life-threatening health problems and most importantly, it can avoid the risk of infecting others.

Suggested reading:

Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2018. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats18/default.htm

Tumwesigye E. Telling signs and symptoms. Afr Women Health. 1994 Jul-Sep;2(3):31-7. PMID: 12318960.

Garcia MA, Wray AA. Sexually Transmitted Infections. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560808/#:~:text=Signs%20and%20symptoms%3A%20Most%20infections,vomiting%2C%20fatigue%2C%20and%20malaise.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/in-depth/std-symptoms/art-20047081

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Symptoms You Should Know About. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases/symptoms#symptoms

Signs of 9 Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Available at: https://reference.medscape.com/slideshow/sti-6006090#2

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