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What Do the Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Look Like?

January 2010

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The following are the some of the symptoms of syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital warts, scabies and herpes. Since symptoms can vary from person to person, and since these symptoms can resemble the symptoms of many other illnesses, you CANNOT diagnose a sexually transmitted disease (STD) based on these pictures! These pictures are to be used as a general guide only! Remember, ONLY a doctor can diagnose a sexually transmitted disease.

WARNING: These pictures are very graphic.


To find out if you have syphilis, the doctor must do a blood test. Syphilis is easily treated with penicillin. However, left untreated, syphilis is a deadly disease, and can kill a person years after infection. The first sign of syphilis is often a sore that doesn't hurt and goes away even if you don't take any medicine. This sore is called a chancre. It usually appears on the penis, vagina, or rectum. Syphilis is most easily spread when someone has a chancre.

There is usually only one chancre, but sometimes there are more. The chancre is usually round. It often looks like several layers of skin are missing. Women who don't get treated for syphilis can give it to their unborn babies. Often these babies are born dead or have brain damage!

These are other signs of syphilis:

  • Losing patches of hair
  • Losing eyebrows
  • A rash on the body (anywhere on the body)

A rash on the bottom of the feet or the palms of the hands are another symptom of syphilis. You cannot get syphilis by touching the skin of someone with this rash, unless there are open sores.

Most men and women with syphilis will go through a period of time when they have no signs of syphilis. They don't feel sick, BUT they still have syphilis. This can happen after the chancre has gone away, but before the rash appears. This can also happen after the rash goes away or their hair starts growing back.

Syphilis can also be transmitted via unprotected oral sex, from genitals to mouth or mouth to genitals.


The man in this picture has gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both bacteria and easily treated. The symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia are very similar. Men and women often complain of a discharge, frequent urination, or burning when they urinate. In gonorrhea, the discharge is often white. In chlamydia, the discharge is usually clear. Very often people infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia may not have any symptoms! Both gonorrhea and chlamydia are spread by coming in contact with the discharge. Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can be transmitted from genitals to mouth and from mouth to genitals during oral sex that is unprotected. If a woman is not treated for either of these diseases, it could lead to a severe infection in her reproductive organs which could cause infertility.

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This article was provided by Rick Sowadsky, M.S.P.H..
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
Ten Common Fears About HIV Transmission
Is HIV the Only Incurable Sexually Transmitted Disease?
The HIV-STD Connection