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STD Symptoms — Common Symptoms of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis

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The term “sexually transmitted disease” refers to an infection that can be transmitted through individuals though sexual intercourse. The STD can be a virus, bacterium or parasite.

While men and women can both be affected by STDs, health issues that can arise from an STD may be more severe in women. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that untreated STDs cause about 24, 000 women in the United States to become infertile every year.

Some STDs cause noticeable symptoms — these common symptoms may alert individuals that something is wrong and they should receive testing for STDs. But other types of STDs do not cause symptoms in many patients.

The MayoClinic.com has made several recommendations for getting tested for STDs. For example, sexually active woman should be screened for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.


The CDC stated that in 2010, there were 1,307,893 chlamydial infections reported in the United States. Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, and it can be transmitted through oral sex, anal sex and vaginal sex, as well as through vaginal childbirth.

Many women who have chlamydia do not have symptoms — about 75 percent of female patients, according to WomenHealth.gov. If a woman with chlamydia does experience symptoms, they begin one to three weeks after she has been infected with the bacterium.

Chlamydia symptoms that women can have include a burning sensation when urinating and abnormal vaginal discharge if the STD affects the urethra and cervix. Other symptoms of chlamydia can occur if the infection affects the fallopian tubes.

These include symptoms such as pain during intercourse, nausea, low back pain and fever. Additional symptoms of chlamydia are lower abdominal pain and bleeding between menstruations.

Treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics. Common options include taking doxycycline twice a day for a week or one dose of azithromycin, noted the CDC.


In the United States, 301,174 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2009, though the CDC estimated that the actual number of cases is more than 700,000 new cases every year. Caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, gonorrhea is also transmitted through sexual contact and vaginal delivery.

Some women infected with gonorrhea may have no symptoms, while other women may have mild symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they begin within 10 days of infection.

WomensHealth.gov warned that many women mistake the symptoms for gonorrhea for something else. These symptoms may include bleeding between menstruations or having heavy bleeding during menstruation.

Some women may have pain during sex or pain when they are urinating. Gonorrhea may also cause vaginal discharge that appears bloody or yellow.

Treatment of gonorrhea is important for women, as they are at risk for serious complications. Antibiotics are used to treat gonorrhea, though there are individuals infected with drug-resistant strains of the STD. In those cases, the CDC recommended dual therapy.


In the United States, more than 36,000 cases of syphilis were reported, according to the CDC. Syphilis is another bacterial STD, caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Transmission is through contact with a syphilis sore, and can be passed from pregnant woman to infant.

Syphilis has four stages — primary stage, secondary stage, latent stage and late stage — with each stage having its own symptoms. During the primary stage, a single sore appears, usually 10 to 90 days after the infection. Called a chancre, this sore is firm and painless and lasts three to six weeks, then heals even if not treated, noted WomensHealth.gov.

If the individual does not receive treatment during the primary stage, the syphilis proceeds to the secondary stage. Common symptoms include tiredness, fever, headaches, patchy hair loss, skin rash and sores on the cervix, mouth or throat. Secondary stage syphilis may also cause weight loss, swollen glands and a sore throat.

In the latent stage, the infection is still in the patient’s body, but not producing any symptoms. This stage can last for several years. About 15 percent of people who do not get treated for syphilis will develop late stage syphilis, stated the CDC, which can occur 10 to 20 years after the infection. At this stage, the STD has affected several organs, causing symptoms such as numbness, paralysis and dementia.

Syphilis is easily treated early on — a single dose of the antibiotic penicillin, administered as an intramuscular injection. If an individual has had syphilis for longer than a year, more than one dose of penicillin is needed.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STD Trends in the United States: 2012 National Data for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis. Web. 19 March 2012

MedlinePlus. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Web. 19 March 2012

MayoClinic.com. STD Testing: What’s Right For You?. Web. 19 March 2012

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia. Web. 19 March 2012

WomensHealth.gov. Chlamydia Fact Sheet. Web. 19 March 2012

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea. Web. 19 March 2012

WomensHealth.gov. Gonorrhea Fact Sheet. Web. 19 March 2012

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Syphilis. Web. 19 March 2012

WomensHealth.gov. Syphilis Fact Sheet. Web. 19 March 2012

Reviewed March 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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