The Sexual Health Center

Overview Of STDs, Including Symptoms, Transmission, And Treatment

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diseases or infections that are transmitted from an infected person to an uninfected person through sexual contact (vaginal, oral, and anal sex).

According to a survey by the World Health Organization, more than 1 million STDs or STIs are acquired daily across the world.

The majority of these STDs are asymptomatic. There are more than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause sexually transmitted diseases.

Some examples of STDs include syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, herpes simplex virus (HSV), hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Symptoms, Transmission, And Treatment

STD Symptoms

A person with STD will experience several symptoms. An STD starting a symptomatic STI will result in the following signs: 

  • Pain, irritation, or discomfort during urination or sexual activity
  • Unusual discharge or bleeding from the penis or vagina
  • Issues like itchiness in or around the vagina
  • Rashes, bumps, or sores on or around the penis, vagina, anus, buttocks, testicles, mouth, or thighs
  • Swollen or painful testicles 
  • Bleeding or unexpected periods after sexual activity 
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Rashes over hands or feet

These signs and symptoms might appear only a few days after exposure to the virus or bacteria. Also, if an STI becomes STD, there will be changes in the symptoms as well.

But, take special note that some STIs don’t have symptoms. Besides, depending on the organism causing STI, it might even take years to have any noticeable symptoms. 

Some other symptoms depending on the STD include memory loss, fatigue, fever, recurring pain, nausea, vision or hearing problems, lumps or swellings, or weight loss.

STD Transmission

Sexually transmitted diseases pass from an infected person to an uninfected person through oral, vaginal, or anal sex (bodily fluids or skin). Another way of contracting the disease is through intimate physical contact such as heavy petting. That being said, it is not that common.  

In the case of STDs, there are situations where they might pass from mothers to infants during pregnancy or delivery.

Some of these STIs include gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia, and syphilis. If infants get STIs, it can lead to serious health issues or even death. To prevent such transmissions, pregnant women should be screened for these diseases and treated promptly. 

STD Treatment

As aforementioned, there are several STDs or STIs and currently, different treatment options are available which is a relief to some extent.

The following are the effective treatments for STDs:

  • Single-dose regimens of antibiotics are the best treatment option for bacterial STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, and parasitic STIs like trichomoniasis.
  • Antivirals are the best treatment available for herpes and HIV. These medications can modulate the course of the illness. But, note that they cannot cure the disease. 
  • Antivirals are also beneficial for hepatitis B. These medications help fight the virus and slow down the damage caused to the liver.

STIs like gonorrhea are found to have attained a rapid increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which has led to a decrease in treatment options.

This disease has shown significant resistance to antibiotics including azithromycin, quinolone, and extended-spectrum cephalosporins. 

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease of the genitals caused by two types of viruses namely, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

This disease spreads if you come in contact with herpes sore, genital fluid from an individual with genital herpes infection, or skin in the genital region of a person with genital herpes.

Genital herpes can be transmitted from a person with no visible sores or other genital herpes symptoms. 

The symptoms of this STD start about 2 to 12 days after being infected by the virus. The following are the signs that you should look for:

  • Itching or pain around the genitals
  • Pain and discomfort while urinating
  • Discharge from the vagina or urethra
  • Blisters or small bumps around the mouth, anus, or genitals
  • Ulcers caused by the rupturing of blisters
  • Scabs formed after the ulcers heal

You might have to encounter genital herpes outbreaks often. As such, this STD cannot be cured but some medications can reduce frequent outbreaks.

Antiviral medications including valacyclovir,  acyclovir, and famciclovir are clinically proven safe with long-term use.

Some home care tips include using mild cleansers while showering in warm water, keeping the affected area clean and dry, and wearing loose clothes to keep the region comfortable. 


Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the gram-negative bacterium Chlamydia Trachomatis. This infection is passed on through unprotected sex and is very common among sexually active teenagers and young adults.

People infected with Chlamydia often have no outward symptoms. Studies estimate that around 40 to 60% of people have no symptoms of the infection. 

As aforementioned, chlamydia is a silent infection and the symptoms might occur very late. Some of the symptoms of this infection are given below:

  • In women, the infection of the cervix might be visible through symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, abdominal pain, fever, painful urination, painful sexual intercourse, or frequent urination.
  • In men, the infection leads to inflammation of the urethra resulting in symptoms like unusual discharge from the penis, a painful or burning sensation when urinating, fever, or testicular swelling or pain. 
  • Chlamydia also results in trachoma which is chronic conjunctivitis. The signs and symptoms include irritation, redness, mucopurulent ocular discharge, and lid swelling.
  • The infection leads to reactive arthritis which is very common in young men.
  • Children born to chlamydia mothers will be infected with the disease. It might cause premature birth, spontaneous abortion, or conjunctivitis. 
  • Other symptoms of chlamydia include lymphogranuloma venereu.

Since chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it is easy to treat. Antibiotics are the most effective treatment for curing this sexually transmitted infection. Azithromycin and Doxycycline are among the antibiotics that are prescribed to people with chlamydia.

Some home remedies like Goldenseal and Echinacea help ease the symptoms of the infection. Even after treatment, people should get tested again after 3 months to check if there is reinfection. 


Gonorrhea, also known as the clap, is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium gonococci (Neisseria gonorrhoeae). This infection usually infects the mouth, rectum, or genitals.

In women, gonorrhea might also infect the cervix. This STI is commonly spread through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Infants might also get infected with the disease from their mothers during childbirth and it commonly affects the eyes. 

In most cases, gonorrhea does not result in any signs or symptoms. Most symptoms appear in the genital tract. Here are some of the signs that a person with gonorrhea might notice:

  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, or painful sexual intercourse due to inflammation of the uterine cervix. 
  • Inflammation of the penile urethra, a painful or burning sensation during urination, pain and swelling in one testicle, or unusual discharge from the penis.
  • Gonorrhea of the rectum might result in symptoms like pus-like discharge from the rectum, anal itching, and strain during bowel movement.
  • This infection might affect the eyes and cause eye pain, discharge from the eyes, and sensitivity to light.
  • Throat infections caused by the disease include swollen lymph nodes in the neck and a sore throat.

Gonorrhea can be treated using home remedies or over-the-counter drugs. Antibiotics like ceftriaxone are recommended for curing the infection. Health professionals also prescribe oral medications like Doxycycline. 


Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum and this infection can lead to serious health issues without treatment.

Syphilis is contracted through anal, oral, or vaginal sex, or direct genital-to-genital contact. Congenital syphilis is an infection in infants transmitted to them through their untreated mothers. 

Syphilis has four different stages namely, primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary stages. The symptoms during each stage are different. 

  • During the primary stage, single sore or multiple sores might occur in, on, or around the penis, vagina, rectum, anus, lips, or mouth.
  • During the secondary stage, people might have rashes or sores in the mouth, anus, or vagina, fever, headache, weight loss, fatigue, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands.
  • During the latent stage of syphilis, there are no visible signs or symptoms.
  • The tertiary stage is very serious as it affects many organs including the heart, blood vessels, nervous system, and brain.

Penicillin injection is prescribed for treating primary and secondary syphilis. Those who are allergic to penicillin are given other antibiotics like doxycycline or ceftriaxone. 


Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that damages the body’s immune system. Untreated HIV leads to a condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

As of now, there is no effective cure for HIV, and once people contract this disease, they will have it for life. 

Here are the symptoms of HIV:

  • Early signs and symptoms of HIV include flu, fever, chills, skin rash, sore throat, headache, upset stomach, nausea, general aches, and pains, or swollen lymph nodes. 
  • During the latency stage, some people might have zero symptoms while others have nonspecific symptoms like headaches, recurrent fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, skin rashes, shingles, pneumonia, fatigue, or nausea. 

Once you are diagnosed with HIV, the main treatment given is antiretroviral therapy. Other treatment measures include following a healthy diet and using various forms of complementary or alternative medicine.

Leave a Comment