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What STDs Are Asymptomatic?

Written on December 21, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect millions of people worldwide.[1] STDs are sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and there are many different types of infections out there. Some STDs may present without symptoms. Read this article for everything you need to know.

What Are STDs?

STDs are infections that are passed from one person to another, usually during sexual contact.[2] However, they can sometimes spread via skin-to-skin contact. In addition, it is possible to pass STDs along to a baby during pregnancy, during breastfeeding, or if you are sharing needles with an infected person.[2]

It is important to undergo regular STD testing to ensure that you do not have STDs. This is especially important if you are sexually active with many partners. Or, if you are sexually active with someone who has been with many partners, receiving testing and screening is recommended to ensure that both you and your partner are safe.[2]

Symptoms Of STDs

While some STDs do not present with symptoms, many STDs have varying symptoms that may need treatment. These can include painful urination, pain during sex, changes in discharge, odor coming from the genitals, or headaches.[3]

You may wonder, what STDs are asymptomatic? STDs can present without symptoms, so individuals should take a proactive approach to their sexual well-being. Some of the most common STDs that can present without symptoms include [4-11]:

  • Chlamydia: This STD is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and can usually be easily treated with antibiotics. Chlamydia can commonly present without symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may not appear until up to three weeks post-infection. Symptoms may include changes to discharge, burning sensations during urination, and bleeding from the anus.
  • Gonorrhea: This STD is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is mainly found in discharge and fluids. Symptoms of gonorrhea can vary, and some people may not experience any symptoms at all. If symptoms do develop, they typically do so within two weeks post-infection. Sometimes, however, the condition can go undetected for months. If symptoms do develop, they typically include changes in discharge, pain during urination, and infection of the rectum, throat, or eyes.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): HIV can develop over several stages and cannot be cured, but rather, is managed through medications. Initially, someone may experience short, flu-like symptoms two to six weeks post-infection. However, many of these symptoms are mild and may not be flagged as anything that raises concerns. If these symptoms last longer than one to two weeks, you may begin to feel like you need to seek treatment and testing. After this initial infection window, HIV may not present with symptoms for many years. This can be dangerous, as the virus can continue to impact the immune system and may do so silently until a lot of damage has been done.
  • Herpes: This STD is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is typically what causes oral herpes, and can present without symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they may do so within two to 12 days post-infection. Sometimes, however, this condition may not present with any symptoms for months or even years after infection. If symptoms develop, they can include red bumps, swelling, vaginal discharge, pain during urination, or flu-like symptoms.
  • Trichomoniasis: This STD is caused by the parasite trichomonas vaginalis. Many people do not develop any symptoms when infected with trichomoniasis. If symptoms do present, they typically do so within a month after infection. Symptoms can include changes in discharge, soreness of the vagina, and pain while having sex.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV is an STD that includes a group of related viruses. HPV does not usually present with any symptoms. Sometimes people learn they have HPV through the development of genital warts. In addition, it is important to undergo regular STD screening, as HPV can be linked to several types of cancers.
  • Hepatitis B: This STD is a liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B can be both short or long term and many people may not present with any symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they typically do so within one to four months post-infection. Some symptoms can include abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, and nausea.

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The Danger Of Asymptomatic STDs

Because STDs can be asymptomatic and, thus, many people may not know that they are infected, it is important to get tested and treated by qualified healthcare providers if you or a partner has an STD. Just because an STD does not present with symptoms does not mean that it isn’t doing damage to the body. Having an infection that goes untreated can cause many undesirable effects like infertility, increased risk for infections, and increased risk for some cancers.[12]

STIs affect the reproductive tract, as they are most commonly passed during sexual activities. Therefore, one of the most common effects is damage to the reproductive organs.[12] In addition, inflammation and scarring from infection can cause pregnancy complications later in life if the fallopian tubes become scarred.[12]

Certain untreated STDs like HPV and hepatitis B can increase one’s risk for cancers due to the damage that these viruses cause to the immune system. If these STDs go untreated in the body and viral load increases, this can weaken the immune system, which makes your body more susceptible to cancer-causing cells or viruses.[12]

How Often To Test For STDs

To best protect your sexual health and well-being and to prevent infection with asymptomatic STDs, it is important to get regularly tested. If you are sexually active, testing regularly for STDs is imperative. The following are the CDC's recommended testing protocols [13]:

  • All people between the ages of 13 and 64 should be screened for HIV at least once.
  • All sexually active women under 25 years old and/or over 25 years old with multiple partners and/or risk factors should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia yearly.
  • All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C once they find out that they are pregnant.
  • All men who have sex with other men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. More frequent testing may be warranted depending on individual circumstances.
  • All people who are at risk for infection or who share drug equipment should be tested for all STDs regularly.
  • All people who have oral and/or anal sex should be tested for all STDs regularly.

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At Everlywell, we combine the best in modernized, rigorous lab testing with easy-to-access, at-home medicine. We provide a range of blood tests, including several sexual health tests that you can take from the comfort of your home. Your results will be analyzed in CLIA-certified labs and an experienced healthcare provider will deliver your results. We also provide virtual care visits so you can meet with a provider from the comfort of your home. Take control of your health today with Everlywell.

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  1. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). World Health Organization: WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis). Published July 10, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  2. Sexually transmitted diseases. STD | Venereal Disease. National Library of Medicine | MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  3. Sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/in-depth/std-symptoms/art-20047081. Published May 5, 2022. Accessed December 12. 2023.
  4. Chlamydia. WHO, World Health Organization: WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chlamydia. Published July 17, 2023. Accessed December 12.
  5. Gonorrhoea. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gonorrhoea/. Published November 20, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  6. Symptoms | Gonorrhoea. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gonorrhoea/symptoms/. Published November 20, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  7. Symptoms | HIV and AIDS. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/symptoms/. Published November 18, 2021. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  8. Genital herpes. NHS Inform. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/sexual-and-reproductive/genital-herpes/. Published December 2, 2022. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  9. Trichomoniasis. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/trichomoniasis/. Published June 24, 2022. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  10. Human papillomavirus (HPV). nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/human-papilloma-virus-hpv/. Published July 14, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  11. Hepatitis B - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/symptoms-causes/syc-20366802. Published September 24, 2022. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  12. The dangers of undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections | ASM.org. ASM.org. https://asm.org/articles/2022/december/the-dangers-of-undiagnosed-sexually-transmitted-in. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  13. Which STD tests should I get? | Prevention | STDs | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm. Accessed December 12, 2023.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.

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