Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: Dec 07, 2018
Last Modified Date: Dec 07, 2018
Published Date: Mar 02, 2018
What Are the Early Warning Signs of an STD in Females?
Do you know the early warning signs of an STD? Many women do not. After all, STDs generally are not high on the list of topics women discuss over coffee, as they might with other female health issues, like pregnancy or menopause. Despite the fact that we now know that STDs can happen to anyone and are nothing to be ashamed of, there is still a certain amount of stigma attached to these particular health issues in the minds of many people. This can make it difficult for women to get the information they need to protect their sexual health. In an effort to help make this information more readily available, here are some of the more common signs of STD in females.
Common STDs in Females
STD stands for sexually transmitted diseases. They may also be referred to as STIs, which stands for sexually transmitted infections. These are contagious diseases that are primarily spread from one person to another via sexual contact. This can include vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact. Some of the most common STDs in women are:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – This is the most common STD among women. In fact, since there are more than 40 variations of the HPV virus, nearly everyone who is sexually active will be infected with at least one of them in their lifetimes. While many varieties are harmless, some are linked with the development of genital warts, while other strains are associated with cervical cancer, which makes HPV of particular concern for women.
- Chlamydia – This bacterial infection is very common among women and is the most frequently reported STD in the United States.
- Gonorrhea – Another bacterial infection, Gonorrhea is very commonly diagnosed in women. Both Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can have serious consequences for a woman's fertility and often have few symptoms. Getting tested for either of these should be a high priority if a woman is sexually active and wants to have children someday.
- Genital herpes – This viral STD, also known as HSV-2 affects about 16% of Americans, according to the CDC. And the number could be even higher because new research shows that increasingly, cases of Genital Herpes are caused by HSV-1, the virus that causes cold sores. The Herpes virus in any form infects mucus membranes, and since the vagina has a larger proportion of these membranes than does the penis, women are more vulnerable to infection with this STD than are men.
While these may be the more common STDs in females, there are others that women should be aware of, including Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, Hepatitis B and HIV.
Early signs of STD in Females
The early signs of STDs in women vary to some extent according to the particular infection, as well as from one woman to another, even if they have contracted the same type of STD. A large proportion of women who are infected with an STD may have no symptoms at all. For instance, more than a quarter of women who have Chlamydia infections have no sign of the disease, and many female Gonorrhea sufferers have no signs of infection, especially in the early stages of infection. HPV typically has no symptoms in the early stages, and is usually only diagnosed through testing or as long term complications become an issue.
All that being said, many women will experience early signs and symptoms that can indicate STD infection. The most common of these include:
- Vaginal itching
- Burning or pain while urinating
- Discharge from the vagina, which could be white, yellow, blood-tinged and/or carry a foul odor. Discharge may be thin and watery or very thick or clumpy
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Rash, bumps or irritation on or around the vagina
- Painful blisters or ulcers on or around the vagina
Less common symptoms of STDs may include the following:
- Changes in urination
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Frequent nausea
- One or more painless ulcers, or sores, on or near the vagina
- Sore throat, difficulty swallowing
- Rectal bleeding, discharge or pain
Again, it is very important to realize that many women display no symptoms after becoming infected with an STD. For that reason, if you suspect you may have been exposed to an STD, do not wait for symptoms to appear before getting tested. Most STDs can be treated quite quickly and successfully, especially when caught in the early stages, but they must first be detected for that to happen.
About STD Testing
Getting screened for STDs is a very simple process. All it takes is a few lab tests to find out whether you have acquired an STD, which may, depending upon the particular tests done, involve giving a urine sample or a blood sample for testing. You can speak to your family doctor or your gynecologist to order tests, or if you prefer a more confidential approach, the same tests your doctor would use are available to you directly through online testing services, like Health Testing Centers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women who are sexually active get screened for common STDs regularly. For women under age 25, the agency recommends annual screening for common STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, and annual screening is also advisable for women over that age if they have a new sex partner or are having sex with more than one partner. They also advise that all pregnant women should be screened for Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B and HIV, and that all females between the ages of 13 and 64 should be screened for HIV at least once.
Other times that it is important to get tested are when you have had unprotected sex with any new partner, whether it was sexual intercourse or oral sex, or if you suspect a former or current partner may be infected or have been exposed to an STD, whether or not protection was used. Finally, if you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above or any others that concern you, getting tested as soon as possible to rule out an STD is wise.