How To Tell If Someone Has an STD
Most people who engage in unprotected sex don’t think they’ll get an STD. Based on their impression of their sexual partner, cursory risk assessment of the activity, and their level of intoxication, most people assume they’d be able to tell if their partner had an STD before engaging in sexual activity. There is no real consensus about what signs would clue you in to whether or not someone has one of the burning, drippy, bumpy, or worse— silent but deadly— infections that can be spread by intimate contact. So, how can you tell if someone has an STD?
The Quick & Dirty Guide to Telling If Someone Has an STD
Getting tested for STDs is the only way to know with 100 percent certainty whether someone has an STD. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that can be useful if you’re worried about how to tell if someone has an STD. We cannot stress enough that the most common symptom of STDs are no noticeable signs or symptoms at all!
Questions to ask yourself about your partner to help gauge if they have an STD:
Does this person have bumps on their genitals or mouth?
- Bumps, warts, pimples, blisters, or sores on or around the genitals can be caused by:
- HSV-1, known as oral herpes, and HSV-2, known as genital herpes: Lesions
- Molluscum contagiosum: Flesh-toned spots with a sunken, concave appearance
- HPV: Genital warts
- Scabs on or around the genitals are typically a sign of bumps that have oozed and started healing
Does this person have a sore throat or throat infection? It could be a sign of:
- Sore throat, difficulty swallowing, redness, pockets of pus, chancre sores in the mouth or on the throat, loss of voice, and (in rare cases) throat fungus can be caused by:
- Gonorrhea: Swollen glands in the throat
- Syphilis: Large, gray or white lesions
- HIV: White or yellowish fungal infection
Does this person have chronic flu-like symptoms?
- Fever, chills, fatigue, swollen joints, and nausea can all be signs of an STD, such as:
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Does this person have a rash?
- Rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet can be caused by:
- Secondary stage syphilis: Red or brown, non itchy rash
Does this person have pink eye?
- Conjunctivitis, known as pink eye, can be caused by:
Does this person have encephalitis or meningitis?
- Lymphocytic Meningitis (Mollaret’s meningitis), a disease caused by swelling of the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord, can be caused by:
- Herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1), the virus that most commonly causes oral herpes
Does this person have a high-risk job?
- Certain jobs carry a higher risk of contracting an STD, such as:
- Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs)
- Physicians, nurses, EMTs, first responders, and other hospital staff
- Aid workers/Missionaries
- Janitorial staff who work with bodily waste or contaminated water
- Sex workers and adult entertainers
There are many other possible indicators that someone has an STD, but without an STD test, there is no way to be absolutely sure. What may look like a bump on the penis could be an ingrown hair. It can be difficult to distinguish between normal and abnormal vaginal discharge. Burning during urination could be due to a urinary tract infection and itching in the genital area could be a result of an allergic reaction to a new laundry detergent. Conversely, something that seems completely non-sexual, like a rash on your armpit or spotting between menstrual cycles, could be the first sign of an infection that if unnoticed and untreated, could lead to very serious side effects. The best way to avoid STDs if you are sexually active is to practice safe sex and get tested regularly.
Medically Reviewed by William Terranova MD on September 8, 2018
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Author: Kristena Ducre
Kristena is a sex-positive LGBTQ ally and general fan of sexy things. As a writer, she is passionate about empowering people's sex lives with accurate and straightforward information. Sex can be a ton of fun, but sexual health is not a laughing matter. In the bedroom, as in life, knowledge is power.