The STDs Most People Don’t Know About — but Really Should

Couple talking to a doctor

It’s important to learn about STDs that most people don’t know about. |

You’ve heard of the usual suspects: gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HPV (which can cause cervical cancer). But chances are, you’re not all that familiar with some of the lesser-known sexually transmitted diseases out there. And neither were we, so we did some digging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 20 million new STD infections in the U.S. each year. Although certain groups may be more prone to STDs than others, such as adolescents and young adults, anyone who’s sexually active can contract one. Your high school health teacher wasn’t lying when he said abstinence was the only real way to prevent STDs. Go figure.

Well, a lot has changed since you’ve hung up your varsity jersey and made your way into full-fledged adulthood. The days of blaming any sexual mishap on your teenage hormones are long gone. As an adult, it’s your responsibility to not only practice safe sex, but to be aware of all the consequences you might face.

Though it can be scary, if you notice anything out of the ordinary down there, don’t be too quick to discount the possibility that you got something through sexual activity. Here are four STDs most people don’t know about, but should.

1. Molluscum contagiosum

Young couple with matching tattoos kissing

STDs are transmitted through sexual contact. |

This infection, which is caused by a poxvirus, manifests as a benign, mild skin disease characterized by lesions. According to the CDC, these lesions, known as mollusca, appear as small bumps with a dimple or pit in the center. The lesions, which may become itchy, red, or swollen can occur anywhere on the body from your face to your abdomen, or even down to your legs and to your genital area. While this virus spreads through person-to-person physical contact, it also spreads through contaminated objects, such as linens, pool equipment, and towels. Molluscum qualifies as an STD, though, because it can also spread from one person to another through sexual contact. You might get more than you bargained for the next time you share your sheets with a new partner.

2. Mycoplasma genitalium

adult couple has privacy problems

This STD is even more common than gonorrhea. |

Although it may actually be more common than gonorrhea, you’ve probably never heard of mycoplasma genitalium, or MGen, before. Transmitted through sexual contact, this bacterium infects the reproductive tract. It can cause swelling and irritation of the genitals in men and has been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease as well as infertility in women. Luckily, the infection is easily treated. A single dose of antibiotics will typically wipe out the bacteria.

3. Nongonococcal urethritis

doctor with pills in hand

Some STDs are easily treated with antibiotics. |

An infection of the urethra, nongonococcal urethritis, or NGU, is caused by germs other than gonorrhea. It’s most commonly caused by chlamydia. While NGU can affect both men and women, it’s more common in men due to anatomical differences. Although it can occur through nonsexual contact, such as during a urinary tract infection, most germs that cause NGU are transmitted during sex. According to the American Sexual Health Association, symptoms in men include discharge, burning or pain while urinating, itching, and tenderness. Symptoms for women include discharge, burning or pain while urinating, abdominal pain, or abnormal bleeding, which may indicate the infection has progressed to pelvic inflammatory disease.

4. Lymphogranuloma venereum

woman apologizing during an argument

It’s important to get tested for STDs, even if you think you don’t have any. |

According to STD-Gov, lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV, is a somewhat rare sexually transmitted disease caused by several types of chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. Typically transmitted through anal sex, LGV affects the lymphatic system and is often accompanied by enlarged lymph nodes, rectum inflammation, ulcers, and sores in the genital area.

Whether or not you’ve experienced one of these STDs, it’s important to get tested regularly. Despite how a disease or condition manifests itself in your body, certain STDs can lead to something more serious if left untreated.