STD Myth Exposed: No Symptoms Means No STD, Right?

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A lot of people wonder if it is possible to have an STD without showing any signs or symptoms. Common symptoms for different STDs include a burning or discomfort with urination, genital discharge, sores or a rash. If you don’t have those symptoms or any others, could you have an STD? The simple answer is yes, you could. A person can have an STD and not show any of the known symptoms or noticeable evidence of the infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can be very common for a person to have an STD without experiencing any of the symptoms. STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, trichomoniasis, or HPV often do not manifest symptoms in an infected person. This is why regular STD testing is important. Only through STD testing can you know the current status of your sexual health even when symptoms are not present.

Let’s take a look at some STDs and what the most common symptoms are.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both bacterial infections that can affect the eyes, genitals, anus or throat. Symptoms of both include a vaginal or penile discharge, burning or discomfort with urination, rectal pain or bleeding. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be transmitted through anal, oral or vaginal sex.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, or trich, is a common STD caused by an infection with a protozoan parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis. The CDC believes that about 70% of people infected with trich do not show any symptoms though symptoms can include an itching or discomfort in the genital region, burning with urination, a discolored discharge or a redness/soreness in the genitals. Trich is far more common in men than in women.

Herpes

Genital herpes is a common STD in the United States. Herpes can be transmitted from one person to another through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Many people infected with herpes can show either no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Should a person show symptoms, they might include sores which usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters can break and create painful sores that may take days to weeks to heal. This is often referred to as an outbreak.

HPV, or human papilloma virus

The CDC states that HPV is the most common STD in the U.S. It can be spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Most people with HPV may never show symptoms, but HPV can eventually lead to more serious conditions such as cancer. A common symptom of HPV is genital warts.

Remember that not showing symptoms of an STD does not mean that your sexual health is in the clear. Having an STD and letting it remain untreated can have long term health effects as well. The best way to know whether or not you have an STD is to have STD testing performed.

References:
1 Could I have an STD and not know it?
2 Chlamydia Fact Sheet
3 Gonorrhea Fact Sheet
4 Trichomoniasis Fact Sheet
5 Herpes Fact Sheet
6 HPV Fact Sheet

Article by Robert Francis Curtis

Robert studied at Columbia College Chicago. He has worked as a Care Adviser here at Analyte Health for a while and looks forward to spreading more information about sexual health.