What do I need to know about STDs?

If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, you are at risk for contracting an STD. STDs are much more common than you might think, and that’s because a large portion of people who do have them don’t even know it. If you are sexually active have had more than one partner, or have been with someone who has had more than one partner, you should get tested.


Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the US. Very often, those with Chlamydia do not experience any symptoms, which is why it’s important to get tested. If left untreated, Chlamydia can cause permanent reproductive damage in women, and can increase the chance of ectopic pregnancy, which can be fatal. Chlamydia can be cured with proper treatment.

Signs or symptoms of Chlamydia in women include:

  • For women, unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Pain while urinating
  • No symptoms

Signs or symptoms of Chlamydia in men can include:

  • Strange discharge from the penis
  • Pain or swelling in one or both testicles, though this is less common
  • No symptoms


Gonorrhea is most common in sexually active individuals between the ages 15-24. Women will often not experience any symptoms, however, if they contract it and it is left untreated, Gonorrhea can develop into Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID increases risk of infertility, scar tissue formation, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. In men, untreated Gonorrhea can cause intense pain in the tubes connected to the testicles. Sometimes this can lead to sterilization. If caught, Gonorrhea can be easily treated.

Signs or symptoms of Gonorrhea in women include:

  • Pain while urinating
  • An unusual amount of vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding not associated with menstruation
  • No symptoms

Signs or symptoms of Gonorrhea in men include:

  • Pain while urinating
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles, though this is less common
  • No symptoms


There are five stages of syphilis, though they do not necessarily occur in order.

Primary Syphilis

Typically, sores will appear at the point of contact with someone who has been infected. These can be hard to detect because the sores are painless, usually round in shape and firm. They go away on their own within 3-6 weeks. This does not mean the syphilis has gone away on its own.

Secondary Syphilis

The rashes that appear during secondary syphilis are red to dark reddish-brown in color and usually cover palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash will not be painful or itchy, so it is also hard to detect. The rash will also disappear on its own, and syphilis will continue to advance.

Latent Syphilis

This is the period of time during which no symptoms occur, and it can last anywhere from a month to several years.

Tertiary Syphilis

A majority of those who contract syphilis do not reach this stage. However, if it does, it is very serious, and can affect the heart, brain, blood vessels, and nervous system. Tertiary syphilis usually presents itself 10-30 years after contraction, and it can be fatal.

Neurosyphilis or Ocular Syphilis

If left untreated, syphilis can advance to the brain or the eyes. Neurosyphilis can occur at any time during the progression of syphilis.

Symptoms of Neurosyphilis include:

  • Severe headache
  • Muscle coordination difficulty
  • Paralysis
  • Numbness
  • Dementia


Overall treatment for HIV has advanced significantly over the years, however it is still a very serious disease that should not be taken lightly. The symptoms of HIV, which are often mistaken for the common cold, usually present themselves within 2-4 weeks of infection.

Common HIV symptoms include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Body rash
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, we encourage you to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our staff members about your next steps. At the Center for Women, we will listen to your unique situation and circumstances with the goal of understanding how we can best help.