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Spreading Safety – Symptoms of the 3 Most Common STIs

Healthcare professionals have discussed redefining how we identify sexually transmitted viruses, proposing the acronym STI (sexually transmitted infections) over STDs (sexually transmitted disease). This is due to the fact that some infections caused through sexual contact have no obvious signs or symptoms. There are approximately 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections every year in the U.S..

Rates for the three most common STI’s all increased in 2017. Education is prevention, so the first step to avoiding possible infections and its associated treatment costs is to learn about them.


Curable with antibiotics, chlamydia is the most reported STI in the U.S., affecting close to 3 million people every year. This common bacterial infection is spread through oral, vaginal, or anal contact, so the best way to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading chlamydia is to practice safe sex. Very rarely, the bacteria can be spread by touching your eye with a hand that’s been contaminated with chlamydia.

Many who contract chlamydia do not experience any symptoms with 80% of women and 50% of men showing no signs of infection. However both genders may experience a burning sensation when urinating. Here are other potential gender-specific symptoms:


  • Discharge from the penis
  • Swelling and pain in one or both testicles (less common)


  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal and pelvic pain

Even with no symptoms, chlamydia can still damage a woman’s reproductive system. Repeat cases of chlamydia are common, so getting tested yearly or at more frequent intervals if at higher risk is recommended.


Healthcare providers will usually test for gonorrhea while testing for chlamydia. Colloquially referred to as “the clap,” gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STI. While treatable, its rise is cause for concern for the CDC. This is because of increased resistance to some antibiotics such as ceftriaxone.

That’s why it’s important to be proactive in both learning about how this STI spreads, and how to protect yourself and your sexual partners. Generally, symptoms for women and men are mild, if experienced at all. Even without symptoms, gonorrhea is highly contagious.


  • Colored discharge from the penis (white, yellow, or green)
  • Swelling and pain in one or both testicles (less common)


  • Bleeding between menstrual cycles
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

Again, both genders can experience a painful sensation when urinating when infected with gonorrhea. Symptoms in women can often be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Never share medicine with a partner when being treated for gonorrhea, and wait at least a week after finishing treatment to have sexual intercourse and consider getting a repeat test after treatment to make sure it worked. Untreated, gonorrhea can increase the risk of spreading HIV.


In 2017, there were over 30,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis. The symptoms of syphilis can be confusing, as there are different stages and times where there are no signs at all. Many mistake symptoms like a syphilis sore for a pimple, or later symptoms for a simple rash.

Syphilis sores are the primary stage of the infection. These painless sores are firm and round, and can be open and wet. The sores are extremely contagious and can appear on the genitals and anus or (rarely) the lips and mouth. Even when a sore disappears after 3 to 6 weeks, the infection is still present. Treatment at this stage prevents the infection from progressing to the secondary stage.

The secondary stage usually begins with rashes all over the body or as rough spots on the hands and feet. Some may also experience mucous membrane lesions on the mouth or genital regions. Other symptoms at this stage include a slight fever and headache, fatigue, swollen glands, sore throat, and weight loss. If left untreated, the infection will move into the latent stage (which has no visible signs) or to tertiary syphilis. The tertiary stage can occur 10-30 years after initial infection and can result in muscle damage, visual changes including blindness, and dementia.

The new wave of this sexually transmitted infection has no signs of slowing down, so if syphilis is suspected your provider will conduct a blood test and if necessary, get treatment started right away.

MD Now conducts confidential STD/STI testing, with no appointment needed. Walk in and receive speedy results.