Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are a major issue amongst women of any age. They may lead to a variety of complications as they can affect the reproductive health of women if left untreated. Therefore, it is important to recognize their symptoms and the need for early medical review and treatment cannot be emphasized strongly enough.

Some of the STDs are caused by:

1) Human papillomavirus
2) Chlamydia trachomatis
3) Neisseria gonorrhoea
4) Genital herpes
5) Trichomonas
6) Mycoplasma genitalium
7) Syphilis
8) HIV
9) Hepatitis B
10) Hepatitis C

It is important to note however, that many people with STDs do not know that they carry the infection. This is called asymptomatic infection. Therefore, even if you have no symptoms and are concerned about an exposure that may have been high risk (e.g. unprotected sex, a recent STD diagnosis in a partner, substance or alcohol use during sex or having multiple sexual partners), then STD tests should be performed to rule out asymptomatic infection.

Symptoms that may suggest that you have STD are as follows:

1) Abnormal vaginal discharge

Any discharge that is unusual for the woman such as a change in quantity, consistency, colour (yellow to greenish) and if there is blood mixed in may indicate an infection.

2) Vaginal itch

This is usually felt externally in the vulva area and may indicate an infection within the vagina.

3) Abnormal vaginal odour

A malodorous discharge or odour without discharge may be abnormal and can be caused by STDs.

4) Vaginal discomfort, pain or burning sensation

This can range from a mild discomfort to full-blown pain or a burning and stinging sensation down below.

5) Painful urination

Burning or a painful sensation during peeing or sometimes just a “hot” sensation during the process though may indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI) but do note that it could also point to an STD.

6) Painful sexual intercourse

This is also called dyspareunia and if it feels deeper inside, it may indicate an infection involving deeper areas such as the cervix.

7) Lower abdominal discomfort or pain

This again may mean infection of the deeper structures such as in pelvic inflammatory disease.

8) Bleeding outside of menses

This may again indicate pelvic inflammatory disease but may also be due to sinister conditions like cancer of the cervix.

9) Vulva blisters, sores, ulcers or wart-like lumps that can also involve other areas such as anal and oral areas

STDs can manifest as rashes or ulcers in the vulva areas or other places as stated above. A blister-like rash is typical for genital herpes whereas a single ulcer (painless or painful) may be early syphilis. Genital warts are due to an infection with human papillomavirus.

10) Non-specific flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, mild fever, headache, tiredness and fatigue

Though these symptoms may not seem to indicate anything serious (apart from suspicion of covid-19), a recent infection with viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C may manifest with any of these symptoms. These symptoms are due to the body’s antibody production against these viruses, also called ‘acute seroconversion syndrome’. It is important to think about these conditions particularly after a high-risk sexual exposure event.

11) Swollen (painful or painless) lymph nodes either widespread or limited to the groin area

An STD may cause regional lymph nodes to swell up and may cause pain or discomfort.

12) Widespread rash mainly in the trunk or back which can involve palms and/or soles

Generalised rash involving the body which can involve the palms or soles or both is one of the common symptoms of syphilis.

Though you may feel that you are unlikely to have an STD as you don’t feel any symptoms at all, as mentioned earlier, a large proportion of people who have STDs may not exhibit any symptoms. Thus one should exercise caution when it comes to engaging in high-risk activities (e.g. 100% protection including during oral sex, reduce number of sexual partners, avoid alcohol or substance use etc) and to always seek medical attention should a partner is diagnosed with an STD.

The importance of early diagnosis and treatment of STDs cannot be emphasized enough and this is so that the risk of transmission to others is eliminated and to also reduce the risk of development of complications from STDs.

Should you have any concerns regarding STDs or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, do consider making an appointment with us at DTAP clinic.


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