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Can STD make you feel sick?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. There are many different types of STDs, and some may not cause any symptoms at all. However, there are a number of STDs that can make you feel unwell.

What are the most common STDs that cause symptoms?

Here are some of the most common STDs that may cause symptoms:

  • Chlamydia – This bacterial infection often does not cause symptoms, but when it does, it can lead to abnormal discharge, burning with urination, and pain during sex.
  • Gonorrhea – Caused by bacteria, gonorrhea may result in a yellow or green genital discharge, pain or burning during urination, and swollen testicles.
  • Trichomoniasis – This common parasitic STD can cause genital itching, discomfort during urination, and a thin, frothy green or yellow vaginal discharge.
  • Genital herpes – Herpes is a viral STD characterized by sores or blisters on the genitals. Other symptoms include itching and burning in the genital area.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV is a group of viruses that can cause genital warts. These soft growths do not always cause symptoms but can lead to itching and discomfort.
  • Hepatitis B – While not always sexually transmitted, hepatitis B can cause flu-like symptoms, jaundice (yellowing skin), fatigue, and stomach pain.
  • HIV – Within the first few weeks after contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, people may experience flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, rash, and sore throat.

What STD symptoms may affect men?

Certain STDs are more likely to produce symptoms in men. Here are some of the symptoms men may experience:

  • Discharge from the penis – Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis can all cause abnormal discharge.
  • Burning during urination – Pain or burning with peeing may occur with gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and other STDs.
  • Swollen testicles – Epididymitis, an inflammation of part of the male reproductive system, can cause testicular swelling and pain.
  • Genital sores – Herpes, syphilis, and HPV can all produce sores on the penis, scrotum, or other genital areas.
  • Anal discharge, itching, soreness – Certain STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia can infect the rectum and cause these symptoms.

What STD symptoms tend to affect women?

Some STDs are more likely to produce symptoms in women. Potential symptoms include:

  • Vaginal discharge – Gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and other STDs can lead to abnormal discharge.
  • Burning with urination – STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause painful urination.
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain – Some STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pain and inflammation in the abdomen and pelvis.
  • Vaginal itching and soreness – Trichomoniasis, yeast infections, and other STDs can result in itchy, reddened, and painful genitals.
  • Bleeding between periods – Certain STDs may disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause abnormal bleeding.
  • Genital sores – Herpes, syphilis, and HPV can manifest with sores on the vulva, vagina, cervix, and anus.

How soon after exposure do STD symptoms appear?

The timeline for the appearance of STD symptoms can vary greatly depending on the specific infection. Here’s an overview:

  • Chlamydia – Symptoms may take 1-3 weeks to develop after exposure.
  • Gonorrhea – Symptoms typically show up within 10 days after infection.
  • Trichomoniasis – Symptoms usually start within 5-28 days after contracting trichomoniasis.
  • Herpes – Symptoms typically manifest within 2-20 days after becoming infected.
  • HPV – Genital warts may take weeks or even months to appear after initial infection.
  • Hepatitis B – Symptoms may not appear for 1-4 months after exposure.
  • HIV – Flu-like symptoms generally arise within 2-4 weeks post-infection.

Keep in mind that some people with STDs never develop any symptoms at all. But when symptoms do occur, it is usually within 1-4 weeks after contracting the infection. Getting tested is important, even without symptoms.

Can you have an STD with no symptoms?

Yes, it is entirely possible to have an STD without exhibiting any symptoms of the infection. Some examples include:

  • Chlamydia – Over 75% of women and 50% of men with chlamydia display no symptoms.
  • Gonorrhea – Up to 50% of women and 10% of men have asymptomatic gonorrhea infections.
  • Herpes – Most people with herpes (80%) are unaware they have it because they do not experience outbreaks.
  • HIV – Some people may be asymptomatic for 10 years or longer after first contracting HIV.
  • HPV – Most people with HPV (around 90%) will never exhibit any symptoms.
  • Hepatitis B – Approximately 50% of adults with hepatitis B are asymptomatic.
  • Trichomoniasis – Up to 50% of people with trich don’t experience symptoms.

Even though symptoms are absent, these STDs can still be transmitted to partners. Getting tested regularly for STDs is important to detect infections before transmission occurs.

What complications can occur with untreated STDs?

Leaving STDs untreated can lead to serious complications down the road. Potential complications include:

  • In women:
    • – Pelvic inflammatory disease
    • – Infertility
    • – Ectopic pregnancy
    • – Chronic pelvic pain
  • In men:
    • – Epididymitis
    • – Infertility
    • – Urethral strictures
  • In both:
    • – Increased risk of HIV
    • – Cancer
    • – Arthritis
    • – Heart disease
    • – Death (advanced syphilis)

That’s why it’s so important to get tested regularly and receive treatment promptly if diagnosed with an STD. Many complications can be avoided with early detection and treatment.

Which STDs can be cured with treatment?

Many common STDs are completely curable with proper antibiotic treatment. These include:

  • Chlamydia – curable with antibiotics like azithromycin or doxycycline.
  • Gonorrhea – treatable through antibiotic injections or oral medications.
  • Syphilis – curable with penicillin or other antibiotics.
  • Trichomoniasis – treated with prescription anti-parasitic medications.

By contrast, other STDs like herpes, HPV, hepatitis B, and HIV cannot be cured but can be managed with medications to reduce symptoms and transmission risk.

What over-the-counter medicines can help STD symptoms?

While prescription antibiotics are required to cure most STDs, some over-the-counter medications can temporarily relieve certain symptoms:

  • Pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium for pain and fever.
  • Antihistamines like Benadryl for itching and swelling.
  • Antifungal creams for fungal infections associated with STDs.
  • Sitz baths and topical creams for urinary discomfort.
  • Acyclovir cream for herpes lesions.
  • Suppositories or creams to ease vaginal soreness and discharge.

However, OTC meds only treat symptoms, not the underlying STD. See a doctor for proper diagnosis and antibiotic treatment.

When should you see a doctor for possible STD symptoms?

You should see a doctor right away if you notice any unusual symptoms like:

  • Burning during urination
  • Unusual discharge from penis or vagina
  • Painful sex
  • Genital itching, rashes, sores or blisters
  • Abdominal pain (women)
  • Swollen testicles (men)
  • Bleeding between periods (women)

Do not wait and hope symptoms will go away. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential to cure the STD, prevent complications, and avoid spreading the infection to partners.

What STD tests may a doctor perform?

To diagnose potential STDs, doctors can perform various tests including:

  • Physical exam of genitals for signs like discharge, odor, sores, rashes.
  • Swabs of discharge from penis or vagina.
  • Urine test.
  • Blood draw to check for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B.
  • HPV test on women by scraping cells from the cervix.
  • DNA tests on discharge or urine to detect gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Based on exam findings and test results, the doctor can pinpoint which STD is causing symptoms and provide proper treatment.

What are preventive measures against STDs?

You can take steps to lower your chances of acquiring an STD:

  • Use condoms correctly every time you have sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Avoid risky sexual behaviors like sex without a condom.
  • Talk to your partners about STDs and getting tested.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV.
  • Don’t share needles or injection drug equipment.
  • Get screened regularly for STDs even without symptoms.

Being open, honest and proactive about STDs is key to reducing transmission.


STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis can certainly cause a variety of symptoms involving discharge, pain, itching and sores in the genital region. However, many STDs do not produce any symptoms at all, which is why regular screening is so important. If you notice any unusual symptoms in your genital area, see a doctor right away for proper diagnosis and treatment. Swift treatment can cure certain STDs, ease symptoms, and prevent serious complications down the road.