Many STDs lead to different symptoms in men or women. Sometimes women are more adversely affected by some STDs, while women experience almost no symptoms from other STDs. The possibility of STD infection without symptoms means it is important to be tested if exposure to an STD is suspected so that appropriate treatment decisions can be made.
Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance of the bacteria found naturally in the vagina. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that most cases of bacterial vaginosis are asymptomatic, women who do experience symptoms may have a white or gray vaginal discharge that may have a strongly unpleasant smell. A burning sensation may be felt during urination and the area around the vagina may itch.
Symptoms of chlamydia in women include pain during urination and intercourse as well as pain in the lower abdomen and discharge from the vagina (Mayo Clinic). However, most cases of chlamydia, especially in women, do not lead to symptoms.
The CDC reports that almost all women infected with gonorrhea experience no symptoms or symptoms that are mild and may be mistaken for other health problems. Women with gonorrhea symptoms may experience pain or burning while urinating, discharge from the vagina and bleeding between periods. Gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, whose effects include abdominal and pelvic pain, abscesses, and possible infertility (CDC).
Many cases of HPV infection are asymptomatic. However, HPV can sometimes lead to genital warts and lesions in and around the mouth and in the throat as well as pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions, including cervical cancer. The development of symptoms is largely dependent on which of the HPV viruses has been contracted (Mayo Clinic).
Women infected with genital herpes may experience red rash with blisters on or around the genitals, anus and thighs. The blisters are filled with fluid and eventually break open and crust over. Genital herpes is accompanied by prodromal symptoms, which include an itching, burning or painful sensation in the region before an outbreak happens According to the CDC, other symptoms of the first outbreak may include fever and swollen lymph nodes. People generally experience fewer outbreaks over time.
Syphilis has four stages, the third of which has no symptoms. According to the CDC, first-stage syphilis causes just one sore, known as a chancre, while the second stage of syphilis is marked by a number of different rashes; other symptoms of this stage include fever, fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches and headache, swollen lymph nodes, hair loss and weight loss. Late-stage syphilis leads to coordination and motion problems, numbness, progressing blindness as well as dementia.