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The Different Types of STDs

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It is foolish to think that STDs are not harmful. All sexually transmitted diseases come with a certain amount of health risk. It is a risk not only for the person with the disease, but for your partner, your future partners and possibly your children. If anyone has been sexually active, especially without protection, it is important to get tested before exposing anyone else.


If anyone has signs or symptoms of an STD, it is even more critical to get tested and/or treated as soon as possible. Not all sexually transmitted diseases are the same. Some are much worse to get than others. Certain STDs are dangerous to carry for a long time without knowing the infection is in your body.

Types of STDs

There are many types of STDs. Following is a list of the worst STDs to get and what you can expect if you get them.


Most everyone is familiar with HIV and the dangers of contracting HIV and AIDs. Although we have come a long way with treatment over the last several decades, there is still no cure. HIV is a viral condition, which means that no cure currently exists. It is important for anyone who is sexually active to get tested for HIV often. If HIV is found, the sooner treatment begins, the better prognosis for optimal health.

HIV can lead to multiple health issues including rashes, genital sores, flu-like symptoms, persistent diarrhea and organ failure and even death.


Syphilis can not only be a painful disease, but it can potentially be fatal. It is spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Usually symptoms appear about three weeks after someone has been exposed. However, this is not always the case. There are four stages of syphilis and each stage has different symptoms.

The Four Stages of Syphilis are:

  1. Primary
  2. Secondary
  3. Latent
  4. Tertiary

Primary Stage Syphilis – In primary stage syphilis, the first noticeable sign is a single sore or multiple sores. The place on your body where you contracted syphilis is where you contracted the disease. In women, it is usually in or around the vagina. In men, it is on their penis. If a woman contracted it through giving oral sex, the sores will appear on her lips or mouth. The sores usually last a month to six weeks, whether you receive treatment or not. If treatment is not given, the infection moves to the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage Syphilis – During the secondary stage, rashes and sores appear in the mouth, vagina or anus. There is usually a rash on more areas of the body, including the hands or bottom of the feet. The bumps are typically rough, red or reddish-brown. Other symptoms of the secondary stage are fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, hair loss, headaches, fatigue and body aches.

Without the proper treatment, syphilis can stay in your body for years and move to the latent or tertiary stage.

Latent Stage Syphilis – The latent stage is when there are no visible signs or symptoms. Left untreated, it can develop into the tertiary stage. This can affect the heart, blood vessels, brain and nervous system and can be life threatening.

Tertiary Stage Syphilis – Tertiary syphilis is serious and usually occurs 10-30 years after infection. It damages your internal organs or causes death.

Without a diagnosis of syphilis or treatment — during any stage of the disease — it can spread to the brain, nervous system, eyes or ears. It can cause headaches, muscle weakness, eye pain, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vertigo, changes to your mental state, personality changes and dementia.

Congenital Syphilis — Passing Syphilis on to Your Baby

If a woman has syphilis and becomes pregnant, she can pass the disease to her baby. Congenital syphilis can have a major impact on the baby’s health. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight or death shortly after birth. Babies born with syphilis can have deformed bones, anemia, enlarged liver, jaundice, brain and nerve problems, meningitis, skin rashes blindness or deafness.

Congenital syphilis has tripled in recent years and the growth rate is alarming to public health officials. ACOG recommends that all pregnant women receive STD testing at their first initial OB visit and again at 36 weeks. Routine testing during pregnancy is not only for syphilis, but HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes and hepatitis. As congenital syphilis is on the rise, it can be assumed that not enough pregnant women are getting proper prenatal care.


Hepatitis A, B and C can spread through vaginal, oral or anal sexual activities. It is a viral disease but it may either be temporary or long-lasting. The worst case scenario is that it can lead to liver disease and death. It is a life-long disease.

Hepatitis is harder to detect than other STDs, unless someone is tested. With HIV, syphilis, herpes, etc., usually painful sores or rashes make the STD obvious. Hepatitis symptoms don’t present in the same way. Some of the symptoms include fatigue, flu-like illness, dark urine, pale stool, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundiced skin and yellow eyes. If anyone has any of these symptoms, it is imperative they seek diagnosis and treatment from a physician.


Chlamydia can be a serious disease if not found and treated. It can cause major health issues for women like pelvic inflammatory disease, scarring of the urethra, infertility and complications during pregnancy.

About 70% of women who get chlamydia do not have symptoms but it can spread it if they are sexually active. Sometimes the infection remains in your body for weeks, months or years without symptoms. If you are sexually active and without protection, undetected chlamydia is highly transmittable to other partners.

Often symptoms occur about three weeks after chlamydia is contracted. The most common symptoms in women include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Genital pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Eye pain and discharge
  • Rectal pain, bleeding or discharge.

The treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics.

Chlamydia Can Cause Infertility

Often, a woman doesn’t know she is infertile until it is time to try to have a baby. If chlamydia goes undetected or untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease – which can then lead to infertility.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. It can cause pain in the lower abdomen, fever, vaginal discharge with a foul odor, painful sex and abnormal vaginal bleeding, and pain and burning while urinating. Treatment is needed by an OB/GYN, which may involve surgery. The effects of the scar tissue formed inside and outside the fallopian tubes can lead to tubal blockage, ectopic pregnancy, infertility and long-term pelvic pain.


Gonorrhea has similar symptoms as chlamydia and can also cause a lot of the same problems, including sexually transmitted bacterial infection that can cause infertility. It is transmitted by vaginal, oral or anal sex and is sometimes referred to as “the clap.”

Gonorrhea has been more common in men, but recently has been quickly becoming more common in women. As with all STDs, the more partners a woman has, the greater the chance she can contract gonorrhea. The problem for women is that about 50-70% of all women don’t have symptoms. They would only know if they were tested.

Once gonorrhea is diagnosed, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Common Symptoms of Gonorrhea

The initial symptoms in a woman may appear anywhere from a day to about two weeks after exposure, however it could appear much later.

The most common symptoms of gonorrhea for women are:

  • Pain when peeing
  • A green or yellow discharge from the vagina
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anal itching or rectal discharge

Untreated gonorrhea can cause major health issues for women like pelvic inflammatory disease, long-term pelvic pain, scarring of the urethra, infertility and complications during pregnancy. If left untreated, gonorrhea can also spread to a woman’s bones or joints and can be life-threatening.

If a woman becomes pregnant and has gonorrhea, she can give it to her baby. It can cause miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight or the baby can be born with eye infections if left untreated.


Herpes infections are very common. About 50-80% of American adults have oral herpes, which is caused by HSV-1. Herpes simplex 1 is when cold sores or fever blisters appear in or around the mouth. Most people with oral herpes get it during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact with saliva.

Genital herpes is caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2. Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. That is why some genital herpes are caused by HSV-1. Most genital herpes is spread through HSV-2 through vaginal, oral or anal sex by someone who is infected.

Women can get genital herpes if they have contact with:

  • A herpes sore
  • Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
  • Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
  • Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes
  • Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes
  • Having sex with someone who does not have a visible sore
  • Receiving oral sex from someone with oral herpes

You won’t get herpes from toilet seats, beds, hot tubs or pools or touching anything like soap, silverware or towels.

Symptoms Can be Mistaken for Other Skin Conditions

Many women with herpes may not even know they have it if symptoms don’t appear. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or mistaken for other skin conditions. Genital herpes sores usually appear as blisters in or around the genitals or rectum. They usually start showing up about 4-12 days after exposure. The blisters sometimes form in a cluster and are painful and filled with fluid. They may be different sizes and appear in different places. The blisters break or turn into sores that bleed or ooze a whitish fluid. Once medication starts, it may take a week or more to go away. Sometimes a woman can have flu-like symptoms with an outbreak such as fever, chills, body aches and swollen glands.

The first genital outbreak is typically the worst. Some people get 4-5 outbreaks per year, and some get less. It may lessen over time, or may not. There isn’t usually a way to predict when an outbreak will occur, so it’s good to keep the medication on hand to help lessen the severity of the outbreaks when they occur.

Herpes isn’t necessarily one of the most dangerous STDs since it isn’t life-threatening. However, herpes is more bothersome than most women realize. The main problem is there is no cure. If you get herpes, it is for life. You may have heard the expression, ‘it’s the gift that keeps on giving’. That is exactly right. Once you get herpes, you are stuck with it for life, and you are obligated to inform every future sex partner that you have herpes. Condoms are a must, but even with condoms, they are not 100% effective of stopping the spread of herpes.


HPV stands for the human papillomavirus. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection affecting millions of women in the US each year. There are many types of HPV and some can cause health problems such as cancer and genital warts.

A woman can get HPV by having vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has the virus, and is most commonly spread through regular vaginal sex. It also spreads through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even if they have no symptoms.

Anyone Can Get HPV

Anyone can get HPV if you are sexually active, even if it is the first time. You can also develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who had the infection. This makes it difficult to detect when you first got the infection. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own within two years without causing health problems. But if it doesn’t go away, it can cause genital warts or cancer.

Genital warts usually appear as a bump or a cluster of bumps in the genitals. They can be big, small, raised or flat. An OB/GYN can usually diagnose warts by examination.

HPV can cause cervical cancer, or other cancers, including cancer of the vagina, vulva or anus. It can also cause throat cancer.

You should routinely get screened for cervical cancer by your OB/GYN if you are sexually active. Using condoms can lower your chances of getting HPV. Testing, screening and being in a monogamous relationship are the best ways to prevent the spread of HPV.

Testing is Important — For Both You and Your Partner

Taking control of your sexual health is important and testing is the only way to know if you have an sexually transmitted infection or sexually transmitted disease. Our OB/GYNs test for STIs and STDs daily.

Call us at 770.720.7733 to schedule an appointment today or simply request an appointment online.