STD (sexually transmitted disease) and
STI (sexually transmitted infection)
are two terms used to describe the same
viruses, bacteria, and other agents that are passed from person to person through sexual intercourse and can cause
infection/disease. Surprisingly, the most common symptoms of STDs are no
symptoms at all, making it very important for those who are sexually active,
and especially those who have ever engaged in unprotected sex, to get
Symptoms of STDs can range from none to impossible to ignore, based on which
STD is present, and what stage the infection is in. This makes it difficult to
talk about STD symptoms as a whole, as they vary so much based on the specific
infection. Since symptoms of an STD are not specific, and one symptom can be
caused by more than one disease process, there is some overlap between symptoms
that are caused by STDs and those caused by other disorders. Just because you
have a symptom (such as burning with urination) that can be caused by an STD,
doesn't mean you necessarily have one. This is why testing is so important;
it's the only way to know whether you have a STD.
It is also important to note that STDs can often have no symptoms that
you can see or feel. So, a lack of obvious symptoms does not guarantee that
you are STD-free.
If undetected and left untreated,
some STDs may cause long-term problems such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory
damage, whole body
illness, and even death. This underscores the importance
of testing if you are sexually active and want to know your risk. The
presence or absence of symptoms can't be relied upon as a "measure" of your
STD status. Testing remains the only way to know whether or not you are
infected, and regular testing is encouraged by the CDC for those who are at
increased risk of contracting STDs.
Common STD symptoms
Most people think of STDs and their symptoms as only occurring
in the genitals; however,
signs of STDs can show up in other areas, such as the
anus (for those engaging in
oral and anal sex).
While these signs of an STD easily come to mind when someone worries about a
potential infection, there are many more that typically aren't thought of, and
that affect the body as a whole, such as headache, fever, muscle aches, body
rash, or weight loss. These STI symptoms typically occur in the later stages of
an infection, and can signal more advanced disease. If you have a concerning
symptom and are sexually active, it is important to undergo comprehensive STD
testing to determine whether or not you are infected with an STD.