It is a common belief that once you have contracted an STD, you will naturally know about it when you start showing symptoms. However, this is not always the case. Many people have been reported to have silent STDs; STDs without symptoms. According to some studies, about 60 percent of patients suffering from any STD have no symptoms.
Types of asymptomatic STDs
The high prevalence of STDs with no symptoms can be seen in the following five types. Out of these, chlamydia is the most common.
This silent STD has the highest prevalence in women under 25. If any, the symptoms of chlamydia resemble those of a yeast infection and have a delayed onset. These symptoms include a burning sensation during urination, as in that of UTI, or an abnormal vaginal discharge, as in a yeast infection. It is easy to confuse the symptoms of chlamydia with other more common diseases mentioned above, and hence it is categorized as an STD without symptoms.
It is best to visit a gynecologist when you start showing symptoms mildly similar to those of yeast infection or a UTI, such as pain, burning, or changes in the discharge. Although these could imply that you have contracted chlamydia, the symptoms are primarily due to other health conditions, as chlamydia is often asymptomatic.
If left untreated for an extended period, chlamydia can result in pelvic inflammatory disease owing to its rapid spread to the uterus and fallopian tube. The worsening of this condition is likely to put you at risk of reduced or abnormal fertility.
Although often presenting no symptoms, chlamydia is quickly and thoroughly treated via antibiotics if diagnosed at the right time. According to the recommendations of the CDC, sexually active women under the age of 25 should be screened for chlamydia annually.
Similar to chlamydia, most patients with gonorrhea do not show symptoms. This STD without symptoms tends to go undiagnosed and leads to pelvic inflammatory disease, scarring of the pelvis and fallopian tube, and temporary or permanent damage to the reproductive organs. Gonorrhea also puts you at risk of developing HIV, hypertensive heart diseases, severe joint pain, and other fatal visceral infections.
While gonorrhea is mostly an STD without symptoms, they are very similar to those seen in chlamydia, yeast infections, or urinary tract infections when it does show symptoms. These symptoms include irregular or sudden bleeding, changes in vaginal discharge, and a painful or burning sensation during urination.
While this disease seems risky and fatal if the condition worsens, it is fully treatable with antibiotics, given it is diagnosed at the right time. Just as for chlamydia, the CDC recommends annual screenings of women under 25 for gonorrhea who are sexually active and unsure of their partner’s STD status.
Categorized into two types based on the type of virus caused by, herpes is a viral infection that either presents on the mouth or your genitals. In either of the cases, the symptoms can easily be mistaken for oral or genital sores or rash.
The Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) typically causes oral infections, whereas the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) typically causes genital infections. However, mostly this way, the roles of the virus can be reversed in some cases. Since it is a virus, herpes is a rapidly spreading infectious disease and can spread with or without oral or genital sores.
According to the CDC, up to 90 percent of HSV-2 patients are never diagnosed because of non-existent symptoms. Genital herpes is the most prevalent in the United States, with around the probability of 1 in every six people having herpes. The age group that most commonly contracts herpes is between 14 and 49 years of age.
Unlike chlamydia and gonorrhea, herpes screening is not recommended since there is no treatment for this disease. The clinical treatment for herpes includes the management of the symptoms, if any, such as controlling inflammation or rashes. If you are sexually active and have developed sores on your mouth or genitals, it is best to visit the doctor. A swab test or blood test will give you results for whether you are herpes positive, followed by medications to manage your herpes virus symptoms.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
This is the most common sexually transmitted disease without symptoms. HPV is so common that everyone is bound to have it at some point in their life. Often, people do not realize their condition due to the absence of any physical signs and pass it on to their sexual partner(s). While strains of human papillomavirus cause genital warts, most strains show no symptoms.
Owing to the pervasive nature of this STD, routine screening is not recommended to people below the age of 30. For those over 30, however, annual screening alongside a Pap smear is recommended to diagnose this sexually transmitted disease.
Caused by a parasite, trichomoniasis is another STD without symptoms. This asymptomatic condition is likely to worsen rapidly, increasing the risk of acquiring other STDs such as HIV. While this is primarily asymptomatic, it does present symptoms in most cases. They include uncomfortable urination accompanied by a burning or painful feeling, itching and irritation of the vagina or penis and vaginal or penis discharge with a foul, almost fishy odor.
While the CDC does not recommend frequent screenings for everyone, they are recommended for people with a high risk of infection. These risks include inhabiting a place or a country with a high rate of getting trichomoniasis or people who have an extremely active sexual life with multiple sex partners. The good news about this disease is that a regular dose of antibiotics can quickly fix it.
How can you lower the risks of acquiring STDs?
The optimal way for preventative measures in cases of STDs includes using condoms every time you have sex. Although condoms reduce the possibility of acquiring asymptomatic sexually transmitted diseases, they do not entirely nullify them. The use of condoms cannot always avoid STDs such as trichomoniasis and human papillomavirus. The practice of safe sex is critical in avoiding STIs and STDs. It is essential to be mindful of the following:
- Not indulge in acts that include tearing the skin, which only increases the risk of contracting an STD
- Use latex condoms
- Take a bath or wash before and after intercourse
- Avoid sharing underclothing or towels
- Be open to your partner about your sexual health
- Avoid having multiple sex partners
Now that you have a clear description of all the five STDs without symptoms, you can look out for yourself and your partner to avoid contracting the disease. While some of these diseases are incurable, they are not untreatable. Consult your physician if you have had unprotected sex and experienced any symptoms.