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Common STDs for Men & Women | Identifying STDs

Reviewed by
Date published
04/05/2022
Date last updated
27/04/2022
Length of read
7 Minutes

Sexually transmitted diseases, more commonly known as STDs, are currently on the rise – with doctors warning the nation of a sexual health epidemic if increasing cases are not soon controlled.

Though STDs can be embarrassing for many, there are discrete ways in which we can all be tested and treated, reducing the chances of complications developing as a result of infections.

Here are some of the most common STDs for men and women, and how they can be identified.

How Are STDs Transmitted?

STDs can be viral, bacterial or parasitic, which is why they can spread so easily and quickly from person to person. Both sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections are transferred through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sexual intercourse, as well as being spread through genital contact and through sharing sex toys.

For many STDs, there are little to no obvious symptoms that occur, making it difficult to identify the disease in order to start treatment; this means that regular testing is vital in ensuring STDs and STIs are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, to reduce the risk of further serious complications arising as a result of untreated infections.

Though not 100% effective in providing protection against infections, condoms are deemed the most effective form of contraception against the transmission of STDs.

Are There Any Symptoms Of STDs To Look Out For?

While the majority of STDs don’t show any symptoms, there are a few that do. Both symptoms and their degree of severity will vary depending on the person and the STD itself, but here are some of the symptoms that you should speak to your doctor about as soon as possible if they occur:

  • Vaginal discharge or itching
  • Penile discharge or itching
  • Anal discharge or itching
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pain when having sex
  • A rash around your genitals or anus
  • Growths, lumps, sores or blisters around your genitals or anus
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding.

Common STDs

Chlamydia

A bacterial infection, Chlamydia is the UK’s most common STI and is most widespread among young adults. Over 50% of all men and women don’t experience any symptoms of Chlamydia, which is the main cause of its rapid spread – some sufferers can be infected with Chlamydia for years before identifying the infection, unknowingly transmitting the STI to multiple sexual partners. It is recommended that Chlamydia is tested at least annually, though more testing is recommended if you regularly engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners.

If symptoms do occur, they are most commonly presented in the form of bleeding during or after sex, pain when passing urine, vaginal or penile discharge and lower abdominal pain for women, with testicular pain being present for men.

Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics when identified, though can lead to serious complications if left untreated, including inflammation of the testicles, reactive arthritis, pelvic inflammatory disease and complications in pregnancy for women, and even infertility.

HIV

The human immunodeficiency virus, better known as HIV, is arguably one of the most well-known STDs, while also being one of the most stigmatised, too. HIV is a disease that has no cure; however, many HIV positive patients are able to live long and normal lives as a result of advances in modern medication.

An early diagnosis of HIV is essential in ensuring those suffering with the STD can begin treatment as soon as possible, with medicines helping to keep the viral load of HIV low in the blood, preventing as little damage to the immune system as possible.

After transmission, the seroconversion illness begins to present as flu-like symptoms for the infected person, appearing as symptoms such as a sore throat, tiredness, headaches and a fever. These symptoms soon pass, which is why many HIV positive people go years without realising their positive status of the disease. Without treatment though, the virus attacks the immune system over time, increasing the risk of serious infections and illnesses being caught.

Often referred to as an STD itself, AIDS is the term that refers to this weakened immune system, standing for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It’s now possible to carry out an at home HIV test yourself, making testing accessible for more and more people each day.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is an STD named after the small parasite that causes it – trichomonas vaginalis, also referred to as TV. Symptoms of the disease are often presented within a month of infection transmission, though these symptoms develop similar to other common STDs, making a diagnosis difficult without testing.

Symptoms develop differently for males and females, with women experiencing:

  • abdominal pain and discomfort when passing urine
  • soreness, inflammation or itching in and around the vagina
  • green/yellow vaginal discharge that’s often frothy in appearance and foul-smelling.

For men, symptoms generally include penile discharge and soreness experienced when passing urine.

Leaving Trichomoniasis untreated can cause further complications, especially for future pregnancies, so a prompt diagnosis is important. The STD can be cured with a short course of antibiotics, with any sexual partners being treated too, even if they’re not displaying signs of infection.

Gonorrhoea

Like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea is a really common STD that rarely shows signs of symptoms. Treatment for the infection has a high success rate, usually in the form of a combination of tablets and an antibiotic injection. With symptoms usually showing an improvement in just a few days, follow-up tests are recommended after a week or two to ensure the infection has been fully cured.

If present, the symptoms of Gonorrhea in men are a white, yellow or green penile discharge, with pain when passing urine and sometimes discomfort in the testicles, too. For women, Gonorrhea can present as thin, watery yellow or green vaginal discharge, pain when urinating, lower abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding – heavier bleeding being caused if on their period. The STD can also be transmitted from mother to child during birth, which can result in the newborn becoming blind. Like all STDs, prompt identification is the best way of treating the disease and reducing the risks of long-term complications.