Bacterial STDs

Some STDs are caused by bacteria (“germs”). Bacterial STDs can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Your health care provider will prescribe medication and instructions on how to take it. You should take all of it and not stop when you start feeling better. Stopping your medicine too soon can make the bacteria that caused the STD harder to cure.

It is common for sexual partners to pass the bacteria back and forth, so treatment usually includes not having sex until all partners are cured.

Chlamydia (the silent STD)

Chlamydia is the most common reportable STD in the United States and it can be very serious. Untreated, chlamydia can cause sterility in both men and women. Babies born to mothers with chlamydia can get eye and lung infections. Chlamydia is a major cause of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, a painful infection that can lead to infertility. People with chlamydia are much more likely to get HIV if they have sex with an infected Signs and Symptoms person

Signs and Symptoms

Unfortunately, most people who have chlamydia don’t know that they have it because they don’t have symptoms. If they do have symptoms, men might have a burning feeling with urination or a slight discharge, and women may have a little more discharge than normal. Woman may also have a burning feeling or abdominal pain.

Testing for Chlamydia

A few cells are swabbed from the genital area and examined, or a urine test can be used. Neither method is painful.


Chlamydia is easily treated with oral antibiotics. Don’t have sex until your medicine is finished. Because it is so easily spread, partners should be treated also or you may get it again. Your doctor may want to re-test you after treatment to make sure you haven’t been reinfected.

Gonorrhea (“drip” or “clap”)

Gonorrhea is a very common STD caused by a germ known as gonococcus. It can be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex. If it is not treated, gonorrhea can lead to a type of arthritis and infertility. Women can get Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Babies born to infected mothers can become blind.

People with gonorrhea are much more likely to get HIV if they have sex with an infected person. People with both HIV and gonorrhea are much more likely to spread HIV.

Signs and Symptoms

Most men have symptoms a few days after sex. They often have painful urination and pus dripping from the end of their penis. Most women have no symptoms at all. There may be some yellowish vaginal discharge but it can be hard to tell the difference from normal discharge.

A sore throat and/or sores on the tongue are symptoms of oral gonorrhea, and rectal discharge and itching can result from anal sex with an infected partner.

Testing for Gonorrhea

Samples of discharge are taken from the affected area and tested. Some clinics use a urine test. Because there are different types of gonorrhea, the sample will be tested to find out which medication is best. You should be tested for chlamydia at the same time, because about half of all people who have gonorrhea also have chlamydia.


Depending upon what type of gonorrhea is found, you will either receive a shot of antibiotic or be given antibiotic pills to take. Gonorrhea has developed resistance to many common antibiotics, so it’s especially important to take all of your medicine, even after you feel completely well and all your symptoms go away.

Syphilis (“pox” or “syph”)

Syphilis was the first disease to be identified as an STD. It is passed through contact with the sores of an infected person. It is much more common in men than in women but, like many STDs, it can be very serious if not treated. It can be passed to a fetus during the last 5 months of pregnancy.

People with syphilis are much more likely to get HIV if they have sex with an infected person. People with HIV will get sicker faster if they get syphilis.

Signs and Symptoms

Syphilis is a complicated and serious disease and symptoms vary depending on the stage of the disease.

Primary (first) stage

About 3 weeks after sex, a single, painless sore called a chancre (shan-ker) appears on the body. They are usually on the penis, anus, cervix or mouth, but they can appear anywhere. These chancres can look like sores from other diseases, including other STDs. With syphilis there is only one sore, it doesn’t hurt and it is usually hard around the edges. The sore is very contagious, which means you can give other people syphilis.

Second stage

If syphilis isn’t treated during the primary stage, it moves to the secondary stage. In 6 or 7 weeks, infected people develop a rash, usually on the body and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. This rash is contagious. You may feel like you have the flu. These symptoms go away in about 2 weeks but, if you aren’t treated, serious damage can start happening inside your brain, heart and other organs.

Third or latent stage

There are no symptoms and you aren’t contagious, but the hidden damage gets worse until treatment or death.

Testing for Syphilis

The sores can be tested and there are blood tests. Your health care provider may do more than one type of test or repeat tests. People treated for syphilis must return to their clinic or doctor for additional tests.


Syphilis is cured with a large dose of antibiotics given by a shot. Treatment stops the silent damage, and if a woman with syphilis is also pregnant, she can be treated and cured.