What Are the First Signs of an STD?

August 16, 2018
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Infections can occur anywhere in the body—and for centuries, individuals have been impacted by diseases and infections that are transmitted through intimate sexual contact. Known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), these diseases run the gamut from common and painful (e.g. chlamydia or genital herpes), to less common, but far more serious (e.g. HIV or syphilis).

It takes time for noticeable symptoms to develop in most instances, regardless of the disease-causing organism (pathogen) responsible. Symptom onset may occur anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or even months, after exposure. In some cases, there may be no noticeable signs at all. In these instances, the infected person is more likely to pass along the infection unknowingly to future partners. For this reason, it is important to be tested for STDs if you have engaged in unprotected sexual activity (sex without a condom).

Signs You May Have an STD

Recognizing the first signs of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is essential for early detection and treatment, and more often than not, men and women will notice symptoms such as:


  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Itchiness around the vulva or vagina
  • Blisters/blisters on the vulva or vagina
  • A rash on the vulva or vagina
  • Burning sensation or pain during urination
  • Painful intercourse
  • Sore throat (after oral sex)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Spotting or bleeding between menstrual cycles
  • Lower back pain
  • Fever
  • Rectal pain, bleeding, or discharge (after anal receptive sex)


  • Blisters on, or adjacent to, the penis
  • Bumps, spots, or lesions on the penis
  • Abnormal discharge from the penis
  • Pain upon urination
  • Pain upon ejaculation
  • Itchiness around the tip of the penis
  • A rash on the penis, testicles, or groin
  • Sore throat (following oral sex)
  • Pain, swelling, or tenderness in the testicles
  • Swelling around joints
  • Pain or swelling of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the tip of the penis)
  • Fever
  • Rectal discharge, bleeding, or pain (after anal receptive sex)
  • Flu-like symptoms

Invisible Symptoms

Unfortunately, this scenario is surprisingly common. Despite a lack of noticeable symptoms, you could still have an active STD that impacts your health and others’. In some instances, this harm may involve irreversible damage, including permanent infertility. If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, you should stay on top of your sexual health by going to a medical provider for STD testing.   

How Long Does It Take for STD Symptoms to Show Up?

The time from infection until symptoms manifest—if they appear at all—varies widely, and depends on the specific pathogen and the individual. All too often, symptoms do not appear at all, or they go unnoticed. Despite this, an STD should never be ignored. Left untreated, many STDs can progress and cause irreversible harm. 

You should also note that an infected person remains capable of transmitting infection to other people, regardless of any symptoms. Depending on the specific pathogen, symptoms of STDs may appear within four to five days, or four to five weeks. Some infections might even yield noticeable symptoms months after the initial infection.

How Do You Know If You Have an STD?

There is only one way to know with certainty whether you have an STD: You must be tested as soon as possible. While home testing kits for certain STDs, such as HIV, are available, it is crucial for the patient to see a qualified physician to receive accurate results. A doctor can identify (or rule out) specific infections and can prescribe appropriate treatment. Patients can also receive counseling regarding effective ways to prevent future infections.

There are presently many STDs circulating. Some are relatively new, emergent diseases. Others, such as syphilis, have plagued humankind for many centuries. Modern antibiotics and other drugs have vastly improved our ability to vanquish these dangerous diseases, but early diagnosis and treatment remain crucial.

Consider turning to one of the following medical establishments for STD testing:

  • Urgent care – If you’re noticing any mild to moderate STD symptoms, urgent care may be the most appropriate choice for evaluation and treatment. Experienced providers can perform diagnostic tests and recommend appropriate treatment options to help you recover.
  • Emergency care – In rare cases, STDs can cause severe complications requiring emergency medical attention. If you experience severe abdominal pain, high fever, difficulty breathing, or signs of shock, be sure to seek immediate medical care at the emergency room.
  • Primary care – If you have mild or asymptomatic STDs, consider contacting your primary care provider for routine follow-up care and preventive screening. Your PCP can provide ongoing support and guidance to help you manage your sexual health.

When to Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for STD Testing

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and are concerned you may have an STD, you can count on PhysicianOne Urgent Care for compassionate and confidential care. Our locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York offer same-day STD testing services 365 days per year. We are proud to accept most major health insurance plans and offer affordable self-pay rates. Plus, for routine follow-up care, you’re more than welcome to take advantage of our 24/7 integrated telehealth services. Walk in today or book a visit online to begin your sexual health journey with PhysicianOne Urgent Care.

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