In the heat of the moment, you can’t imagine anything other than pleasure and joy coming from a sexual act. But even if you’ve taken precautions, such as using a condom, each time you have intimate contact with another person, you could contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, our understanding and knowledgeable OB/GYNs — Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD — want to preserve your reproductive health and your general health, too. That’s why they advise paying attention to symptoms and getting annual STD tests.
Whether you’re currently sexually active or were in the past, you’re at risk for an STD. Following are some symptoms that could indicate you have an STD.
Unusual discharge from vagina
If you notice pus or foul-smelling discharge from your vagina, you could have an STD. Your body uses pus to try to flush out bacteria and viruses. Types of discharge that should be investigated include:
- Clear, cloudy, or cheesy liquid
- Foul-smelling liquid or clumps
- Bleeding between periods
- Greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge
- Strong-smelling vagina
Always seek medical help if you notice changes to your vaginal discharge or unusual smells or textures coming from your genitalia.
Painful urination, defecation, or sex
An STD may cause swelling and pain in your urogenital organs. Some symptoms that could be caused by an infection — including an STD — include:
- Pain or burning during urination
- Pelvic pain during sex for women
- Painful bowel movements
- Anal or genital itching
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Itchiness or pain inside vagina or penis
- Dark urine
It’s better to get an answer about what’s causing your symptoms than to wait and wonder. Once we identify the causes of your symptoms, we devise a treatment plan to give you relief and help slow or halt progression of the disease.
Fatigue, fever, or swollen glands
Like all infections, an STD rallies your immune system to fight the invading pathogens. With some STDs — including HIV/AIDs — your initial symptoms aren’t related to your genitals but to your immune system, such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Sore throat
- Flu-like symptoms
- Problems with vision
- Problems with cognition
Systemic symptoms could be a sign of infection with syphilis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Without treatment, HIV can progress to life-threatening AIDS. Untreated syphilis can cause organ damage and death.
Sores or growths around genitals
Small sores around your anus or vulva might not be due to rough toilet paper or frequent wiping. In fact, in most cases they’re not.
One of the most common STDs is the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is a virus that causes intermittent skin lesions, such as painful or itchy blisters. Both HSV-1 (oral) and HSV-2 (genital) can cause lesions on the genitals if you engage in oral sex.
About 12% of people aged 14-49 in the United States have some form of genital herpes. You don’t need to have sexual intercourse in order to get or pass on herpes; any kind of intimate skin-to-skin contact with the genitals can transmit herpes.
Even condoms can’t protect you from herpes. You can develop herpes sores anywhere in or around your genitals, including your buttocks and inner thighs.
Herpes isn’t usually included in a regular round of STD testing. However, if you have any sores or lesions on your genitals, come in for an evaluation and HSV testing.
Although there’s no cure for herpes, you can control outbreaks with antiviral medications. Antivirals also reduce the odds that you’ll pass the infection to a partner.
In the past, researchers believed that it wasn’t possible to pass the herpes virus if you weren’t in the middle of an active outbreak. However, in some instances, the virus is transmitted even without the presence of lesions.
Another type of common skin-transmitted STD is human papillomavirus (HPV). Just over 7% of U.S. adults aged 18-69 have HPV.
An untreated HPV infection is the primary cause of cervical cancer in women. Symptoms of HPV infection include:
- Genital warts
- Swollen genitals
- Itching, painful genitals
- Bleeding during sex
You can also develop these symptoms in your mouth or throat after oral sex with an HPV-infected person.
No symptoms at all
As unpleasant as the symptoms of an STD may be, they’re a good early warning sign that your body’s trying to fight off an infection and needs help. Unfortunately, many STDs don’t create noticeable symptoms at first or at all. Asymptomatic STDs are especially frequent in women because much of their sexual organs and genitalia are internal rather than external.
Don’t assume that the lack of symptoms means you’re STD-free. If you’re sexually active — even if you regularly use condoms or are in a monogamous relationship — an annual STD test helps identify problems in their earliest stages.
If you’re sexually active or experiencing unusual symptoms, contact the Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville office nearest you for STD testing and treatment today so you can stay happy, active, and healthy.