Signs That You Have a STD

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
What are the first signs of an STD?

Knowing the signs that you have a STD (sexually transmitted disease) can help you protect your health and your partner right away without inadvertently spreading the infection because you aren't familiar with the symptoms.

STD Symptoms

There are dozens of different sexually transmitted diseases and infections that may include similar symptoms, and it is important to note that only a doctor can properly diagnose a specific infection. If you are sexually active and notice any of these symptoms, however, it is best to take appropriate precautions.

  • Unusual vaginal or urethral discharge
  • Itching
  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Open sores in the genital area or near the mouth, hands, or other body parts that may come into contact with your or your partner's genitals
  • Unknown lumps or bumps, particularly if they spread, are filled with fluid, or may be painful
  • Unusual body odors or odors from urine
  • Warts or other swelling in the genital area
  • Visible parasites
  • Fever, nausea, headaches, lethargy, or other general illness symptoms
  • Abdominal pain, particularly in the lower abdominal region
  • Irregular menstruation
  • More frequent urination
  • Skin discoloration or unusual bruising
  • Patchy hair loss

Not all of these symptoms are necessarily connected to STDs, but sexually active individuals who notice any of these signs should take proper precautions to protect themselves and their partners until an accurate diagnosis can be made. Furthermore, symptoms may not appear for weeks or months after an individual has been infected, and it is essential to note whether one's partner may be exhibiting signs of an infection as well.

What to Do When You Discover You Might Have a STD

Discovering STD symptoms can be one of the most embarrassing and awkward medical problems you may face, but it is not an uncommon one. Studies indicate that as many as one in five sexually active adults may have some type of STD infection, and to prevent spreading the disease there are several steps you should take as soon as you notice any potential symptoms.

  • Stop all sexual contact with others. The viruses and bacteria that cause STDs are transmitted through bodily contact with the infected region, and ceasing all types of intercourse and sexual activity is critical to avoid spreading the disease.
  • Inform recent sexual partners. This will certainly be an awkward thing to do, but letting everyone with whom you've had recent sexual contact know about the possible infection can help them prevent spreading any potential disease to their partners. Because visible signs that you have a STD may not appear for several weeks after infection, it may be necessary to notify several people depending on the types of relationships you've had recently.
Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.
  • See a doctor. Only a medical professional can properly diagnose a sexually transmitted disease. When you see a doctor, be sure to inform them of when symptoms first appeared, how sexually active you have been in recent weeks, and let them know of any STD history you may have.
  • Engage in healthy behavior. Eating a healthy diet, keeping clean, and otherwise staying fit can help your body become strong enough to fight diseases and can help minimize pain and discomfort.
  • Wash all clothes and bedding. This can help eliminate any dormant bacteria or traces of the virus and can limit the spread of the disease.
  • Follow the recommended treatment completely. Many people stop taking prescribed drugs once symptoms disappear, but that can leave remnants of the disease ready to reappear. Follow the doctor's suggestions carefully and for as long as recommended to ensure a thorough recovery. Some STDs cannot be completely cured, but following the doctor's orders can minimize the effects of the disease.

What Not to Do

It can be scary to find STD symptoms, but fear and ignorance can only help spread the disease. If you discover symptoms and are concerned about STDs, do not:

  • Ignore the symptoms. STDs can spread quickly and may cause more severe health problems if left untreated.
  • Assume that a condom offers protection. While condoms can provide a barrier against some forms of infection, contaminated skin often includes a much wider genital area than a condom can protect against.
  • Hide the symptoms from your partner. Trust is key to any healthy relationship, and letting you partner know about any potential problems can help them protect themselves as well as help you through this difficult time.

The Dangers of Untreated STDs

If left untreated, STDs can lead to severe pain, disfigurement, infertility, and even death. While not all STDs will have such dire consequences, understanding the signs and following the proper steps upon discovering an infection can help you avoid the harshest consequences. Some STDs cannot be cured, but proper medical treatment can help them be safely managed for years.


Knowing the signs that you have a STD can help you protect your health and that of your partner. Getting a sexually transmitted disease can be a devastating experience, but understanding what to look for and how to react helps minimize the problems these types of diseases can generate.

Signs That You Have a STD