The world has spent the past two-plus years focused on symptoms of COVID-19. The list of indicators grew over time as more were identified. You were strongly advised to take precautions if you exhibited any of them.
Watching for symptoms is an age-old method for detecting the possibility of everything from the common cold to cancer. Somewhere in that range is sexually transmitted infections. At a time when STIs are becoming increasingly prevalent, everyone should be vigilant. Vigilance is the only way to slow the spread of these viral and bacterial infections.
You are likely already aware of some common symptoms of various STIs, such as genital sores, blisters, and itching. But you should know something about those that are perhaps less familiar. Here are four STI symptoms you may not know about but should.
1. No Symptoms
Ironically, no symptoms is a common “symptom” of an STI. Being asymptomatic doesn’t mean you don’t have an STI. Nearly every STI is capable of presenting no symptoms. That’s why using condoms and getting screened is so important.
How sexually active you are, the number of sexual partners, and the type of protection you use will dictate testing frequency. Other issues that affect screening frequency include what type of sex you have, be it vaginal, oral, or anal. After all, you need to make sure you test the proper areas with tests designed to detect relevant STIs.
The good news is that STI testing is easier, more affordable, and less embarrassing than ever. You can order a test kit online, have it delivered to your door discreetly, follow easy directions, and send it back. Medical providers can answer your questions any time during the process and discuss your results with you.
Screening for STIs every six to 12 months routinely, and every time you have sex with a new partner, is recommended. Don’t just assume you’re in the clear because you haven’t experienced any symptoms — even if you use protection.
2. Flu Symptoms
You are probably quite familiar with symptoms of the flu. Among them are headaches, fatigue, sore muscles, fever, chills, nausea, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and a cough.
Those symptoms can also be signs of other health issues and of course, they are commonly understood to be symptoms of COVID-19. But flu-like symptoms can also be harbingers of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis.
Muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, fever, chills, and diarrhea can present two to four weeks after infection with HIV. Fatigue, fever, sore throat, and achy muscles may accompany the bumpy rash associated with syphilis. The same symptoms may occur with hepatitis A, B, or C infections.
If you experience flu-like symptoms, the cause could be many things other than the flu itself. Flu symptoms usually occur because your body is trying to fight infection. Just remember that some serious sexually transmitted diseases could be among them.
3. Dark Urine
The urinary system is designed to handle some critical functions for the body. Your kidneys, bladder, and urethra make up parts of the urinary system. It clears out waste products, metabolizes alcohol and drugs, controls production of red blood cells, and helps regulate blood pressure.
The appearance and odor of urine can reveal a lot of things, such as consumption of certain foods like asparagus. A strong ammonia smell may mean you’re dehydrated. And dark urine could be a sign of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B infects the liver, leading to possible liver dysfunction — and dark colored urine as a result. Hepatitis B can be sexually transmitted and may run its course or become a chronic and deadly condition. Fortunately, vaccines can help protect you against it.
If you pass dark urine, talk to your doctor right away so you can be screened. Hepatitis B often has no other symptoms unless it becomes chronic. That screening could make the difference between life and death for you and any sexual partner(s) you have.
4. Bleeding Between Periods or After Sex
Certain birth control methods can let you regulate how many days a month your period lasts. In fact, you can even skip it all together. But this can lead to some pesky in-between spotting or bleeding. Although bleeding between periods may be nothing, like a result of skipping your placebo pills, it might be something serious, including chlamydia. Chlamydia can also present as vaginal bleeding after intercourse.
Other common symptoms of chlamydia in women include painful urination and sex, abnormal vaginal discharge, and lower abdominal pain. Although chlamydia itself isn’t deadly, it can lead to inflammation of sexual organs and pelvic pain. The good news: It also can be cured easily with a round of antibiotics.
Like some other STIs, chlamydia may be otherwise asymptomatic. If you experience bleeding between periods or after sex, you should get screened for it. Pass up the screening, and you may be passing on something you shouldn’t.
Watch for the Unexpected
It would be great if certain specific symptoms were immediately present with each type of STI. People could deduce that they should get tested immediately and remove the possibility of further transmission. But unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Understanding that symptoms may be uncommon, absent, or similar to health conditions other than STIs is key. Out of the long list of STIs, only HIV, herpes, HPV, and hepatitis B cannot be cured. They can, however, be treated and managed. Furthermore, you can be vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis A and B. That ounce of prevention may indeed be worth what can’t be cured.
Watch for what’s not there and what may not be common. Get screened regularly and always take precautions to protect yourself and your sexual partners. With regard to your sex life, make vigilance your watchword.