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STD and STI are abbreviations for sexually transmitted disease and sexually transmitted infection. STDs and STIs are diseases or infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites that are exchanged from one person to another during sexual contact.

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Frequently, an STD will go unnoticed because they commonly do not show any symptoms at all. This is why it is so crucial to get tested if you are sexually active.

STD cases can be tricky; some STDs have many symptoms that overlap other STDs. Other cases tend to mimic other illnesses or diseases, and some STDs have blatant signs and symptoms that make them much more obvious. Having an symptom of an STD doesn’t necessarily mean you have an STD. The only way to know for sure whether or not you have an STD or STI is to get tested, you cannot rule the possibility out otherwise.

Even when no symptoms are present, complications can arise if an STD/STI is left untreated. Serious health risks can occur, including PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), infertility, organ damage and, if left untreated long enough, death.

Routine testing is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to know your current STD status if you are sexually active since relying solely on whether or not you have symptoms is often inaccurate.

STDs can affect more than just the genitals-- they can infect the mouth, throat, upper thighs, anus and even the eye.

Common Non-Genital Symptoms in Men & Women:

  • Pink eye/Conjunctivitis, swollen red eye(s)
  • Infections of the throat and/or mouth
  • Sores or blisters on, in, or around the mouth and lips
  • Rash on palms and soles of the feet
  • Swollen joints
  • Sore throat
  • Chronic flu-like symptoms

Symptoms of STDs sometimes vary between men and women.

Common STD symptoms in men include:

  • Discharge from the penis (penile discharge)
  • Painful urination or ejaculation
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Testicular pain or swelling
  • Rash on penis or genital area
  • Bumps, warts, lesions or sores on or around penis
  • Itching sensation on tip/head of penis
  • Rectal discharge, bleeding or pain

Common STD symptoms in women include:

  • Unusual discharge (can be thicker than usual, frothy, a different color, and/or have an unusual odor)
  • Vaginal itching
  • Bumps, warts, lesions or sores on or around vagina
  • Unusual vaginal odor
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Bumps, rash, warts, lesions or sores on or around genitals
  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Rectal discharge, bleeding or pain

Some STDs occur in stages that have corresponding symptoms, others have symptoms that are similar to the flu or other diseases. STDs that affect the body as a whole often are more serious and have likely moved out of the infection phase and into the disease phase. They cause symptoms like body and muscle aches, fever, rashes on the body, headaches and dramatic weight loss. STDs, especially those that are viral, can lead to death when undiagnosed and untreated. If you do not know your current STD health status, or if you have any of these symptoms and are concerned, it is critical to get tested to rule out whether or not you have an STD.