An STD is a sexually transmitted disease. STDs can be transmitted via vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral sex, and/or manual sex. There are several types of sexually transmitted diseases, and they all are accompanied by varying symptoms and levels of severity.
If you are concerned that you might have an STD, consider these seven possible warning signs:
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination
- Open sores or bumps near the mouth or genitals
- Unusual discharge/unusual odor
- Itching or swelling in the genital area
- Changes in menstruation
- High fever, fatigue, nausea, etc.
These can all be symptoms of a possible STD. It’s especially important to note that the last sign — high fever, fatigue, nausea — also describes symptoms of a general illness. Therefore, if you feel like you might be coming down with something shortly after having unprotected sex, don’t assume that it is just the common cold. However, some STDs are asymptomatic (which means they seemingly have no symptoms), but they can still negatively impact your reproductive and general health, and you can still pass them on to other people.
In fact, the most common sexually transmitted disease is human papillomavirus (HPV), which often has no symptoms, yet at least 70 percent of sexually active individuals will contract HPV at some point in their lives. More than 6.2 million new cases of HPV occur each year, and although HPV often has no symptoms, it can lead to cervical and anal cancer. Regular Pap smears can help to identify HPV early on, and vaccines such as Gardasil can help to protect against certain strains of this virus.
Another common STD that often has no symptoms is trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD, yet many people do not know they have it. Men in particular rarely have symptoms, yet they can still pass it on to their partners. (This is why it is crucial to use protection each and every time. Even if someone “looks” like they don’t have an STD, it by no means ensures that the person is STD-free.) And, while other STDs often have very clear symptoms, such as herpes (which presents as painful bumps around the genitals or mouth), some individuals carry the virus without ever experiencing any symptoms — and yet they can still spread herpes to their partners. Additionally, herpes can often be latent for weeks or months at a time (some say, years), but even if your partner is not currently experiencing symptoms, the virus can still be passed on to you.
If you believe you might have an STD, you should book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Although regular STD testing and safer sex can help protect you from contracting an STD, the truth is that STDs can happen to anyone who has sex — even if it is their first time.
If you discover you do have an STD, do not assume it is the end of your sex life. Many people have STDs and they still have enjoyable (and safer) sex. When you are ready to be sexually active again, be open with your partner about your diagnosis. Don't view it as a shameful confession — you haven't done anything wrong. Honesty from the start, though it may be nerve-racking, is the best policy. It also allows your partner to make an informed decision based on facts, not fear or misconceptions about STDs. Once you and your partner decide to be sexually active, always practice the safest sex possible. Though condoms don't provide 100 percent protection, they significantly help reduce the risk of passing on STDs.