5 STDs You Could Have Without Even Knowing It

Learning you have an STD is the last thing you want to hear. Even worse is being unaware you’ve contracted one in the first place. Unfortunately, this is a very real possibility, as some STDs show few or no symptoms at all. Knowing is better than not knowing, and the only way to find out is by getting tested. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you’ll be able to begin treatment.

Here are five STDs you could have without even knowing it.

1. Chlamydia

nervous stressed young woman

Chlamydia is one STD you could have without knowing. | iStock.com/SIphotography

Caused by bacteria passed during sexual contact, chlamydia often has no symptoms. Which makes sense, seeing as Planned Parenthood says 70% to 95% of women and 90% of men who have chlamydia are asymptomatic. People who do have symptoms, though, typically see them within five to seven days after infection. Symptoms in women can include vaginal bleeding, discharge, and pain during sex, and in men, swollen testicles and pain during urination.

When chlamydia is left untreated

couple meeting with a female doctor

Chlamydia could cause infertility. | iStock.com

Left alone, chlamydia can severely affect a woman’s reproductive system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Yet another condition often showing no symptoms, PID can cause pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy, which the American Pregnancy Association says occurs in one out of 50 pregnancies, means the fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus — where the fetus cannot survive — most commonly in the fallopian tube. Men, on the other hand, rarely experience health problems as a result of untreated chlamydia. If they do, however, they could also experience fertility issues.

2. Gonorrhea

doctor with pills in hand

Luckily, gonorrhea is treatable. | iStock.com

In terms of how common it is, along with how it’s transmitted, gonorrhea is right up there with chlamydia. This bacteria is also transmitted through sex, resulting in an infection. According to Planned Parenthood, “People diagnosed with gonorrhea often have chlamydia as well.” Four in five women and one in 10 men who have gonorrhea are asymptomatic. If symptoms are present, they can appear one to 14 days after infection.

Signs a person has been infected can include the exact same symptoms as chlamydia. Luckily, a person can be treated for both STDs simultaneously, so long as they’ve been tested.

When gonorrhea is left untreated

A man with arthritis who is experiencing pain from swollen joints

Gonorrhea could lead to arthritis. | iStock.com

Untreated gonorrhea can cause infertility in both men and women. Ladies may also experience pregnancy complications, including premature labor and stillbirth. According to Planned Parenthood, the condition can be passed onto the child, resulting in blood, joint, and eye infections. Additionally, untreated gonorrhea can lead to disseminated gonococcal infection, in both men and women, which can cause arthritis and skin sores.  

3. Trichomoniasis

Woman getting out of bed

This common STD is curable — luckily. | MangoStar_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Trichomoniasis, or trich, is a common STD caused by a parasite. Trich is curable, but 70% of those infected don’t show any signs or symptoms. According to the CDC, trich typically manifests in the genital area, with symptoms ranging from mild irritation to severe inflammation. It can be cured with a single dose of antibiotics.

When trich is left untreated

Dad holding his newborn baby

Trich can greatly affect the birth of a newborn. | iStock.com

If you don’t receive proper treatment for trich, the CDC says there’s an increased risk of spreading other STDs. For instance, because the condition can cause genital inflammation, it can be easier to contract HIV. Additionally, infected pregnant women could deliver their babies too early, greatly affecting birth weight.

4. Genital herpes

Man Covering His Crotch

Genital herpes isn’t always super noticeable. | iStock.com/champja

Unsightly blisters probably come to mind when you think of herpes. While sores around the genitals or mouth are certainly a major sign of herpes, most people don’t show any symptoms. According to the the CDC, if you do have symptoms, they could easily be mistaken for another skin condition like an ingrown hair. And in turn, many people do not get tested.

While there is no cure for herpes, it’s important to manage it properly. If a person does notice painful blisters, they obviously risk spreading herpes. That being said, even those who don’t develop the sores could infect a partner because the virus can spread simply through skin-on-skin contact. 

When herpes is left untreated

close-up image of a baby drinking out of a bottle

A mother can pass herpes onto her child. | iStock.com

Those who don’t get treatment for herpes can spread it to others, and it may put an unborn child at risk if the mother is pregnant. If you do have herpes and end up passing it onto your baby, the CDC says it can result in a potentially deadly infection for your child. Genital herpes can also lead to miscarriage or premature labor. Additionally, touching sores or their fluids may even spread it to other parts of the body, such as the eyes. 

5. HPV

Couple talking to a doctor

Some strains of HPV can put you in danger. | iStock.com

By now, you probably know just about everyone of a certain age group has some form of HPV. Unless you’re a priest, nun, or anyone else who’s taken a vow of abstinence, your chances of contracting, or already having it, are pretty good.

There are many strains of HPV, but it often goes undetected until it leads to a bigger problem. Genital warts can be a symptom, and in some cases, HPV can lead to cervical cancer. There’s no way to determine whether a person has HPV, but an abnormal PAP test can indicate cervical precancer. Furthermore, HPV doesn’t just affect women. In fact, HPV can lead to anal cancer and genital warts in both men and women, according to Know HPV.  

When health issues caused by HPV go untreated

Sad woman looking down through a car window

HPV can lead to cervical cancer. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

Untreated HPV can lead to serious complications. For example, if you develop genital warts and don’t treat them with a topical medicine or by having a doctor remove them, chances are, they’ll stick around. Furthermore, men and women alike could get cancer, which could lead to death. This is why regular PAP tests and cancer screenings are absolutely imperative.

Practicing safe sex is important for everyone. Abstinence, however, is the only way to 100% guarantee you won’t contract an STD, so it’s important to get tested regularly.

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