Which STDs Are Symptom-Free?

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If you occasionally engage in unprotected sex, but have avoided having yourself tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because you don't show any obvious symptoms, you may want to rethink this behavior. Many serious STDs can be asymptomatic for months (or even years), all the while causing damage to your reproductive system and other organs. Other symptoms may be minor and could be written off as a simple yeast infection or the flu. Read on to learn more about some symptom-free STDs for which you may want to seek testing.

  • Chlamydia

Chlamydia has so few symptoms that more than 75 percent of women (and more than half of men) who contract this STD show no sign of infection. When symptoms are present, they usually include burning urination, pelvic pain, and occasionally a foul-smelling discharge. When left untreated, the bacteria that cause chlamydia can migrate further into your pelvis, rendering women infertile by creating scar tissue in the uterus and fallopian tubes, and causing men to develop prostate problems. If you give birth while infected with chlamydia, you can pass the infection on to your baby.

  • Gonorrhea

Another silent infection, gonorrhea is commonly known as "the clap." Although symptoms of gonorrhea can take some time to emerge after infection and may stay dormant entirely, they include a thick, smelly discharge, frequent urination, and pelvic pain. Left untreated, gonorrhea can enter the bloodstream, causing damage to the heart and other organs. Once this infection has spread, it becomes much more difficult to effectively treat. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease for women (causing infertility) and prostate inflammation for men (causing erectile and urination problems).

  • Hepatitis C

Transmitted through unprotected sex or any other contact with blood or bodily fluids, Hepatitis C is a serious illness that can cause permanent damage to your liver and other organs. However, more than 80 percent of those recently infected with Hep C don't have any symptoms of the disease. If you suffer fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or other flu-like symptoms after engaging in unprotected sex, you should visit your nearest clinic for an STD screen. Although Hep C is incurable, by diagnosing this illness early, you'll be able to successfully manage it for the rest of your life and avoid any permanent organ damage.

  • Syphilis

The telltale sign of of syphilis (a small sore or chancre that may last up to 6 weeks) is painless and often located in an area that can't easily be accessed, so it may be overlooked. Other symptoms, like rashes and muscle aches, occur so long after exposure it's unlikely you'll associate them with a potential STD. Syphilis can lie dormant for decades before re-emerging and causing major damage, including dementia and other brain issues. The ease with which this disease can be treated, along with the potential physical and mental consequences of untreated syphilis, make being tested a no-brainer. In fact, some clinics may offer free STD testing.