List of the 11 Most Common STDs

By definition, any illness, infection, or disease that can be spread by sexual contact, is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Everyone knows that sex involves really close contact, making it quite easy for any disease to spread. Yay, germs. Because of this, we cannot give you a straight answer as to how many sexually transmitted diseases there are. What we can do is tell you the generally accepted STDs that society and health professionals acknowledge! And oh dear, there are quite a few.

Before we get started, we want to let you know that most, almost all, STDs are dismally common in the U.S. This is a terrible reality, but it may also be comforting to know that if you have an STD, a handful of people around you are likely in the same exact boat as you. We’re a glass half full group of writers, ok.

Moving on, STDs can live inside your body and not show any symptoms (also known as being asymptomatic) or they can be dormant for years. It’s important to stress that symptoms aren’t always present! We do not want you to look at the symptoms in this list and think, “Oh! I don’t have any of those. I’m good.”

While an STD may lie dormant for many years, it can still be high functioning and destructive all while not alerting the body of its presence. The only way to be sure if you do or don’t have an STD is by getting tested. Almost all are curable, minus herpes, hepatitis, and HIV, but we’ll get into those later. Now, roll up your sleeves and let’s dive into these 11 STDs.

Here are the 11 STDs You Need to Know

Chlamydia

This incredibly common STD is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis but is easily cured with a round of antibiotics. It’s transmitted through penetrative sex which includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who carries the infection. And yes, you can still get chlamydia even if semen isn’t part of the equation[ps2id url=’#references’](1)[/ps2id].

Symptoms:

  • Painful sex
  • Rectal pain
  • Throat issues
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • One or two swollen testicles (although less common)

Problems chlamydia may cause:

According to the CDC, chlamydia can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)[ps2id url=’#references’](2)[/ps2id]. This can produce pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. While chlamydia is most harmful to women, men can still be affected. In men, the tube that carries sperm from the testicles can become infected, causing pain, fever, and although rare, infertility.

Gonorrhea

It’s famously known as the “clap,” and is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It’s similar to chlamydia as it is really common and affects the same organs with similar long-term effects. It’s also expected for gonorrhea and chlamydia to coexist in the body, so it is recommended to test for both at the same time. Gonorrhea is transmitted by vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected. It’s a prevalent STD but is easily cured with prescribed antibiotics.

Symptoms:

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Painful or swollen testicles
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Unusual discharge
  • Painful, burning, or swollen glands in the throat
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Anal itching

Problems gonorrhea may cause:

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe and irreversible health issues in both men and women, In women, this disease can lead to PID, form scar tissue that blocks fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, or long-term pelvic/abdominal pain. In men, it can result in painful conditions in the tubes that transfer semen from the testicles, it may cause sterilization, and, although rare, the condition can spread to your blood or joints and become life-threatening.

Syphilis

Caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, syphilis can become extremely serious if left untreated. Syphilis is becoming more and more common as people have unprotected sex. Its effects are divided into four stages: Primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Each stage has different signs and symptoms as it advances. Syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with syphilis sores, and oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse. It is curable; however, there is no reversing any harm it may have caused before treatment.

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Symptoms:

  • Sores that are usually firm, round, and painless that come and go
  • Rashes that typically don’t itch
  • Lesions in mucous membranes
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Sore throat
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Problems syphilis may cause:

As syphilis damages the body, it can cause paralysis, numbness, dementia, changes in vision, or blindness[ps2id url=’#references’](3)[/ps2id]. Once these occur, there is no way to reverse them.

Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG)

In 2007, this little-known STD became even more common than gonorrhea. It once was considered harmless and just existed as a piggyback infection that hooked onto different diseases instead of it being its own thing. MG, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, has begun to emerge as a significant cause of cervicitis in women and nongonococcal urethritis (inflammation in the urethra that isn’t caused by gonorrhea) in men. It’s transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Mycoplasma Genitalium can be cured with a round of antibiotics.

Symptoms:

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Spotting or bleeding between periods or after sex
  • Fishy odors after sex and changes in vaginal discharge
  • Urethral discharge in men
  • Pain and swelling of the joints
  • Non-chlamydial, non-gonococcal urethritis in men
  • Painful sex
  • Vaginal itching

Problems Mycoplasma Genitalium may cause:

As we learn more about Mycoplasma G, we will know the extent of damage it can cause. So far there have been connections to MG and severe long-term issues such as infertility due to pelvic inflammatory disease.

Trichomoniasis

This is the most common curable STD, period. It occurs more often in women than in men and is caused by infection by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It’s transmitted during sex, from penis to vagina, vice verse, or vagina to vagina. Trichomoniasis, also known as Trich, is cured just by one dose of antibiotics[ps2id url=’#references’](4)[/ps2id].

Symptoms:

  • Unusual discharge
  • Strong vaginal odor
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Discomfort during urination
  • Irritation
  • Itching

Problems trichomoniasis may cause:

Trich can cause genital inflammation, make you more vulnerable to other STDs, including HIV, and makes it even more likely that you will pass it on to others.

HIV/AIDS

It was once a devastating blow to be diagnosed with either the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or the advanced version, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). They were once thought a death sentence, but today it is possible to live a healthy and fulfilling life with HIV. In 2016, the CDC estimated that 1.1 million Americans had HIV in 2016 and 1 in 7 wasn’t aware of it. Despite a common misconception, HIV can only be transmitted by coming into contact with infected bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk, and blood, not through casual contacts like sharing food, kissing, plates, or holding hands. HIV/AIDS is incurable, but we do have antiretroviral medications to drastically slow the progress of the illnesses and allow those with the diseases to live a long and healthy life.

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Symptoms:

  • An unrelenting headache
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of energy
  • Sores or lesions
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

Problems HIV/AIDS may cause:

Because HIV/AIDS destroys immune cells, the body becomes vulnerable to all kinds of infections and illnesses, as the body is no longer as capable of fighting germs off. Before the medication we have available today HIV took a major toll on the body and led to death.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

At one point in time, HPV was worryingly common, but ever since the popularization of the HPV vaccine came around, the infection stopped spreading as rapidly. It’s transmitted through oral, anal, or vaginal sex with an infected person. While HPV doesn’t have an official cure (recent trials are having success but it is not yet ready for the public), the symptoms are typically treated while the infection usually goes away on its own.

Symptoms:

  • Genital lumps or bumps
  • Genital itching

Problems HPV may cause:

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own without any health complications. If it doesn’t heal and becomes chronic, genital warts and cancer are potential health issues. It can cause cervical and other cancers such as cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, and back of the throat.

Crabs / Pubic Lice

What are commonly knowns as “crabs,” are actually pubic lice that under a magnifying glass look a lot like the crabs you see at the beach. They’re super common, and about 3 million people get infected with pubic lice every year. Crabs are transmitted through sexual contact because they live in between pubic hair and move from one body to the other when in close contact, and although rare, they can also pass through infected linens and clothing. They’re easy to get rid of with an over-the-counter shampoo.

Symptoms:

  • Excessive itching in the genital area
  • Tiny crab-like tan or whitish gray bugs in your pubic hair
  • Crab eggs at the bottom of pubic hairs
  • Dark or bluish spots on the skin where the bites have occurred
  • Feeling irritable, feverish, or run-down

Problems crabs/pubic lice may cause:

Other than the annoying discomfort they cause, pubic lice are completely harmless.

Herpes (HSV-1 & HSV-2)

Herpes is a harmless, unreasonably feared STD due to how crazy common it is. It’s most recognized as the sores or “cold sores” it typically causes above the lip (HSV-1) and/or genital area (HSV-2). It’s transmitted remarkably easily, mostly by skin to skin contact with infected areas, even if no symptoms are present. These modes of transmission are most often when kissing, or participating in vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It’s not curable, but there is medicine to manage and dramatically tone down the symptoms, intensity, and frequency.

Symptoms:

  • Outbreaks of itchy, painful blisters or sores that come and usually go on the:
      • Vulva
      • Vagina
      • Cervix
      • Anus
      • Penis
      • Scrotum
      • Lips
      • Mouth
        • Throat
      • Inner Thighs
      • Eyes or fingers, although rare

Problems herpes may cause:

Complications are rare, but they exist. Studies on Alzheimer’s are finding connections back to herpes, although the exact relationship is still under research. There have been times herpes caused meningitis (infection of the fluid and tissues that surround the spinal cord and brain) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), but this is notably rare. Pregnant women with herpes pose a chance of passing it to the infant during childbirth, and there is a chance of serious damage if doctors aren’t aware of the virus.

Hepatitis B/HBV

This is an infection that affects the liver. It’s transmitted through contact with infected blood, sores, semen, and other bodily fluids. According to the CDC, rates of HBV have dropped from an average of 200,000 per year in the ’80s to around 20,000 in 2016. HBV is serious when it happens in teens and children, but usually, when adults have it, the body normally is able to fight it off. If treatment becomes necessary, it’s typically done with antiviral drugs. If you’ve already had HBV, your body has built up an immune system against it, and you won’t get it again.

Symptoms:

  • Belly pain
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Stomach issues (loss of appetite, light-colored poop, vomiting, and nausea)

Problems HBV may cause:

HBV can cause scarring of the liver, and lead to kidney disease, blood vessel problems, liver failure, and cancer. If not eradicated, it is possible to die from a chronic HBV infection.


Now go make good choices.

You now know, if you didn’t already, the most widespread STDs in the U.S. You can make an informed decision on how often to get tested and what to worry most about. Honestly, if you just got tested once (preferably twice) a year you wouldn’t have to worry about them so much, but we can’t force you. Try as we might. You just can’t say you didn’t know. So, some might say that after reading this post, they’re gonorrhea-valuate their choices…[ps2id id=’references’/]

References

  1. “Chlamydia – CDC Fact Sheet” https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/Chlamydia-FS-June-2017.pdf
  2. “Chlamydia – CDC Fact Sheet” https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/Chlamydia-FS-June-2017.pdf
  3. “STD Facts – Syphilis. CDC.gov” https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm
  4. “Trichomoniasis Treatment & Care – CDC.gov”https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/treatment.htm

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Author: Alexa Amador

Alexa graduated from a university in Atlanta with a B.A. in English and joined the STDcheck.com team in 2018. Before joining, she marketed and developed her own blog while working freelance for leading businesses. Having a robust skill set of research, writing, and editing has kept her busy and driven throughout both her academic and professional careers. Alexa became entangled in the sexual health business after coming from not only "abstinence-only" schooling but where the reproductive anatomy chapter was literally torn from her textbook. She realized how irresponsible it is for people to encourage ignorance about sexual health, especially to younger audiences, and so her passion for becoming part of the solution and educating the masses was born. When not writing for Exposed, Alexa enjoys taking vacations in the mountains with a good book and her dog, Nova.