8 STD Symptoms You Never Want To Ignore
8 STD Symptoms You Never Want To Ignore
Honestly, the world is just crappy sometimes. Case in point: Women are way more likely than men to suffer long-term, serious consequences from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Each year, untreated STDs cause infertility in at least 24,000 women in the U.S., according to the CDC. And women are less likely than men to have any symptoms of common STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, which means it’s harder to get an actual diagnosis. Justice, where you at?
“For a while, there was a big push—before you started a new relationship, you should go get tested and go through your results, and there’s been a shift away from that hypervigilance,” says Jennifer Berman, M.D., a co-host onThe Doctors. “We’ve gotta swing back a little bit, somewhere in the middle.”
Screening recommendations vary, but women under 25—and those who are older but have risk factors like new or multiple partners—should be screened annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and all pregnant women are screened for syphilis.
If you’re diagnosed, the good news is that detecting STDs is the hardest part; most are totally treatable. Keep an eye out for these eight common symptoms of STDs in women:
You know what your norm is, and if it’s suddenly way off, your body is trying to tell you something. “Any change in your normal vaginal discharge is a sign of infection—whether it’s the amount, or a change in color or consistency,” Berman says. “Same if there’s a foul odor that’s fishy in smell, or sometimes almost metallic.”
Let’s be real: Peeing is the kind of basic, boring thing we all have to do—a lot. (What, you don’t pee 100 times a day?) If it becomes less boring because now it’s all “ouch, that burns,” stand back up and head to the doc. Okeoma Mmeje, M.D., an ob-gyn with University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, explains that painful pee is caused by inflammation in your genital area and urinary tract, which could be the result of an STD or another kind of infection.
Just admit it: You can’t. Stop. Scratching. “It’s another symptom that something isn’t right,” says Elizabeth Torrone, Ph.D., a team lead in the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. It could be trichomoniasis, for example, a common STD that’s known for making the vagina itch.
Right after women get infected with syphilis, they develop firm, round sores—usually painless, phew. These show up at the exact spot of infection, so that could be the vagina, mouth, or anus, Torrone says. “And then after a couple weeks, it goes away, even without treatment,” Torrone says. “The infection is still in the woman’s body but it moves on to the second stage.”
So about that second stage. Women who have syphilis will develop a rash on their skin, Torrone says—sometimes on the palm, the soles of the feet, or the torso. Syphilis can cause long-term damage, like cardiovascular and neurological problems, Torrone says, so if you’re suspicious, get to the doc stat.
So maybe not all sex is good sex, but it definitely shouldn’t be painful. Sometimes women with an STD notice mild discomfort to a sharp, stabbing pain while getting busy, says Jennifer Wider, M.D., who’s based in New York. This occurs because the tissues of the vagina and cervix are inflamed, making them extra sensitive.
“Some women may have a dull, aching pelvic pain that’s distinctly different from premenstrual symptoms or cramps,” Mmeje says. This is called cervicitis, and it means your cervix is inflamed. If it doesn’t go away with ibuprofen or Tylenol, get checked out.
A number of STDs cause bleeding between periods, Mmeje says—because the cervix is inflamed from the infection. It’s the kind of thing you should always see your primary-care doctor or gynecologist about to figure out if you have a STD like chlamydia or gonorrhea, or if something else is going on.
Video: Top 8 Signs Of STD in Women
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