5 Most Common STDs in Women: Symptoms and Treatments
Out of all the diseases that have affected women, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are some of the most prevalent. STDs are passed from person to person through physical and sexual contact, such as kissing, oral-to-genital contact, and sexual intercourse.
This list of the top five most common STDs in women will help you to gain a greater understanding of them, how to prevent them, and what to do if you suspect you have contracted an STD. The impact that STDs can have on your health and wellbeing is immense.
STDs in women can cause both long-term and short-term consequences to your health when left undiagnosed and untreated. Some of the initial signs of an STD include vaginal itching, rashes, unusual discharge, and pain, but not every STD has symptoms.
The following are the top 5 most common STDs in women.
Chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States. Thankfully, you can easily treat it with an oral antibiotic. When infection occurs in women, chlamydia impacts the cervix, and its symptoms are usually pain during intercourse and vaginal discharge.
This bacterial infection is more challenging to detect, as it may have few symptoms. This means those infected with chlamydia are asymptomatic and may unwittingly spread this STD before ever knowing they have contracted it. If you think you may have become infected with chlamydia, do not wait to seek treatment. Chlamydia can severely impact your health if left untreated.
The oldest known sexually transmitted disease is gonorrhea, sometimes referred to as “the clap.” Gonorrhea affects the same organs in your body that chlamydia does and has comparable effects on your body when left untreated. Some STD symptoms that will alert you to get checked for gonorrhea include pain during intercourse, lower abdominal pain, and green or yellow discharge.
Like chlamydia, these symptoms do not always present themselves right away. That’s why it is important for women to get regular STD testing, since those with this STD are sometimes unaware of its presence. Gonorrhea can be especially invasive because it can infect the throat and be passed through oral sex, so you should be as diligent and cautious about oral sex as you are with intercourse. Additionally, it can infect the anus and even the eyes, so conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” can be another sign of this STD.
If you test positive for this infection, your gynecologist may prescribe an oral or injectable antibiotic, and it is crucial to complete the medication in full so this STD does not return.
HPV is an abbreviation for Human Papilloma Virus. Studies show that HPV may be the most common STD in women, infecting 25 percent of all sexually active women before an effective preventative vaccine was developed.
Unfortunately, there are a variety of HPV strains that can lead to many health consequences. Some types of HPV show no symptoms whatsoever, and some lead to symptoms such as genital warts, while the worst type of HPV has been linked to cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine that can help prevent certain types of this harmful disease.
4. Genital herpes
There are two forms of herpes, HSV1 and HSV2. HSV2 is the type most associated with the infamous genital sores that most people have heard about and fear. HSV2 can also spread by mouth to genitals and vice versa, and it is incurable.
The symptoms of herpes can be treated with antiviral medications, but carriers of the herpes virus can still infect their partners, regardless of if they are experiencing a breakout or not.
Condoms can reduce the risk of contracting this unpleasant STD, but they are not 100-percent effective, since herpes can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. It is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately if you think you or a sexual partner may have contracted this STD.
Hepatitis, like HPV, comes in many forms. However, it is hepatitis B that is most associated with sexual contact. Hepatitis C can also be passed via sexual contact. Hepatitis is so rampant that health officials believe close to 1.25 million people in the United States are infected with some type of hepatitis. Both of these strains affect the liver and can lead to scarring, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.
Some never experience signs and symptoms. For those that do, it may take time for them to appear. In these types of STDs, you may experience fatigue, nausea, and abdominal pain, as well as fever and joint pain. While hepatitis is nothing to fool around with, there is an upside as there is a vaccine that can protect you from hepatitis.
Sexually transmitted diseases are some of the most common diseases that impact women’s health and wellness. The intimate nature of how they are contracted and passed to others can make them especially problematic to identify, especially since many have little to no symptoms.
In addition, there is a stigma of shame and embarrassment associated with these diseases that may result in the infected being reluctant to seek treatment. The health consequences that can occur from failing to seek effective treatment for an STD can have lifelong repercussions.
There are many different STDs, such as:
- genital warts
- pubic lice
- molluscum contagiosum
- lymphogranuloma venereum
If you haven’t heard of some of the above, it’s because many of these STDs are uncommon. The eight most common STDs are:
- hepatitis B
- herpes simplex virus
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
Out of these eight infections, only four are incurable.
Most STDs are curable through the use of antibiotics or antiviral medications. However, there are still four incurable STDs:
- hepatitis B
Even though these infections can’t be cured, they can be managed with treatment and medication.
Most cases of hepatitis B don’t cause symptoms and most adults can fight the infection on their own. If you have hepatitis B, your best option is to speak to your doctor about checking your liver and your medication options to lessen symptoms. Immune system modulators and antiviral medications can help slow the virus’s damage to your liver.
Herpes is one of two chronic viral STDs. Herpes is very common — over
Herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact. Many people with herpes may not know they have it because they show no symptoms. However, when there are symptoms, they come in the form of painful sores around the genitals or anus.
Luckily, herpes is very treatable with antiviral medications that reduce outbreaks and the risk for transmission. If you have herpes and are showing symptoms, talk with your doctor about the right antiviral medications for you.
HIV is the other chronic viral STD. Thanks to modern medicine, many people with HIV can live long, healthy lives with practically no risk of infecting others through sex.
The main treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy. These drugs reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels.
Human papillomavirus is extremely common. About
Many children are vaccinated to protect against different forms of HPV. Pap smears for women check for HPV once every few years. Genital warts can be removed with creams, liquid nitrogen, acid, or minor surgery.
Contracting an STD, even an incurable one, can be manageable. Many are treatable, even curable, through antibiotics or antiviral medications, and some STDs clear up on their own.
With most STDs, you may not show any signs or symptoms. For this reason, it’s very important to get tested for STDs on a regular basis for your own safety, the safety of your partner(s), and general public health.
The best treatment for STDs will always be prevention. If you have an STD or think you might have one, speak with your doctor to discuss your options.
Signs and Symptoms of Common STDs in Men.
While most STDs and STIs do cause symptoms, many are easily mistaken for other conditions. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all. Possible STIs in males include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and hepatitis.
Many people with a penis are quick to assume that if they had a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI), they would know it. However, this is not always the case.
Understanding the risks and knowing the signs and symptoms of common STIs in men and people with a penis is crucial for anyone who’s sexually active.
Chlamydia is a bacterial STI that’s transmitted during anal, oral, or vaginal sex with someone who acquired chlamydia. It’s one of the most common STIs in the United States.
According to the
Many people who acquire chlamydia don’t ever display symptoms. Others only begin to display symptoms several weeks after transmission.
Common symptoms of chlamydia in those with a penis include:
Less common symptoms can occur when chlamydia has been transmitted through the rectum. These symptoms can include:
- rectal pain
Gonorrhea is a bacterial condition that can affect the anus, throat, or urethra.
It’s transmitted during anal, oral, or vaginal sex with a person who has acquired it. Most people with gonorrhea don’t display any symptoms at all.
For those who do, common symptoms include:
- pain when urinating
- a green, white, or yellow discharge from the penis
Less common symptoms can include:
Hepatitis A is a form of hepatitis caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A usually requires no treatment and goes away on its own, but it’s highly contagious.
According to the
It can be acquired via food, drinking water, raw shellfish, and sexual contact without a condom or other barrier method.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include:
- eating contaminated food
- eating contaminated raw shellfish
- polluted water
- neglecting the use of condoms or other barrier method when having sexual contact with someone who has the virus
- being in contact with contaminated fecal matter
Treatment for hepatitis A usually focuses on reducing any symptoms as there is no official treatment.
People can avoid contracting hepatitis A by using a condom or other barrier method for any sexual contact, including oral and anal sex.
Hepatitis B is a form of hepatitis that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Unlike other common STIs that can produce more obvious symptoms focused around the genitals, hepatitis B causes a dangerous inflammation of the liver.
You can contract hepatitis B by coming into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a person who has acquired the virus.
Even if a person has no symptoms, the virus can continue to damage the liver if it’s left untreated.
This is why it’s important to see a healthcare provider on a regular basis (such as an annual wellness visit) to check for signs and get tested.
When symptoms of hepatitis B are present, they commonly include:
Herpes is a viral condition that’s caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes may affect the mouth (oral herpes or HSV type 1) or the genitals (genital herpes or HSV type 2). Either can also cause blisters on the fingers.
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the mouth or genitals of a person who has acquired the virus through sexual intercourse or oral sex and kissing.
While types of HSV prefer certain locations, either type can be found in either location.
The symptoms of herpes can be difficult to spot. Many people won’t have any symptoms at all. Those who do will develop blisters that are often mistaken for other skin conditions like pimples or small water blisters.
Symptoms often occur between 2 days and 2 weeks after transmission. The initial outbreak can be severe.
Common symptoms of herpes in those with a penis are:
- tingling, itching, or burning of the skin in the area where the blisters will appear
- blisters on the penis or testicles, or on and around the anus, buttocks, or thighs
- blisters on the lips, tongue, gums, and other parts of the body
- aching muscles in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, or knees
- swollen and sometimes tender lymph nodes in the groin
- loss of appetite
- feeling unwell
HPV is a term used to refer to a group of viruses that comprises more than 150 strains.
While most of these strains are quite harmless, 40 are considered potentially harmful. These are classified as being either low-risk or high-risk strains.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases today. Most people will eventually acquire one strain of the virus during their lifetime.
According to the
HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has acquired the virus and is most commonly transmitted through anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
Most commonly, people with a penis living with HPV won’t have any symptoms at all. For those who do, symptoms can include:
- genital warts (flat and flesh-colored or clusters of tiny bumps described as having a cauliflower appearance)
- warts in the mouth or throat (spread through oral sex)
Unlike other STIs, which can only be prevented through the use of condoms, other barrier methods, or by abstinence, HPV can now be prevented with vaccines.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two HPV vaccines: Gardasil and Cervarix.
They’re both effective in the prevention of HPV types 16 and 18, which are high risk and responsible for causing most cervical cancers (
A new version of Gardasil, called Gardasil 9, protects against five more strains of the virus. The FDA approved Gardasil 9 in December 2014.
Though originally recommended only for ages 11 to 26 years, in 2018, the FDA
Syphilis is a bacterial STI that can be transmitted through anal, oral, or vaginal sex. This ancient disease is still quite prevalent today and increasing in prevalence.
Syphilis is considered one of the more serious STIs in people with a penis because of its link to HIV and the increased risk of developing HIV after contracting syphilis.
Common symptoms of syphilis
Syphilis has four different phases:
Each phase has its own set of symptoms. The symptoms of primary syphilis in men and people with a penis may include:
- a very small, firm, and painless sore where the bacteria entered the body, usually on the penis, anus, or lips that can be easily missed
- swollen lymph nodes in the area near the sore
Symptoms of secondary syphilis may include:
- a skin rash that doesn’t itch, commonly found over the body that includes the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- sore throat
- swollen lymph nodes
Less common symptoms of syphilis
Latent syphilis is the stage that occurs after the symptoms of secondary syphilis have stopped, and the STD has gone untreated.
Tertiary syphilis is the fourth stage. It’s rare, as few people actually enter the fourth stage even when syphilis is left untreated. It can cause serious complications, including:
- damage to the heart
- damage to the nervous system, including the brain
- joint damage
- damage to other parts of the body
Syphilis can cause serious medical issues and death if it reaches this stage, even several years after transmission.
Many people can contract an STI without experiencing any visible symptoms. This means that practicing safer sex is crucial if you want to prevent transmission.
The only way to completely prevent an STI is abstinence from any type of sexual contact or contact with open sores and bodily fluids of a person who contracted it. But there are other ways to prevent STIs, too.
Condoms during intercourse and dental dams or barriers during oral sex are proven effective when used correctly. Refraining from sex with multiple partners and instead opting for a monogamous sexual relationship can also help to prevent STIs.
Some STIs, such as HPV and hepatitis A and B, have vaccines available. It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider about vaccines available to you.
It’s also very important to be tested for HIV regularly if there’s a risk for any STI. Early diagnosis of HIV allows for early intervention of effective antivirals.
The risk of HIV transmission can be lessened by the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a combination of medications that can reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV prior to potential exposure with consistent use.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a medication that can be taken after potential exposure to prevent transmission. It needs to be taken as soon as possible after the potential exposure and no later than 72 hours after.
Chlamydia often doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, but it can have a lasting impact on your health. An STI test is a quick, painless way to determine whether you have chlamydia.
If you do, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics. Make sure to take the full course as directed, even if your symptoms start to clear up before the end of the course.