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STD Rash | Which STDs Cause Rashes?

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Sexual Health

What does an STD rash look like? What is the difference between an STD rash and shaving rash, heat rash or friction lumps and bumps?

Read on to find out everything you need to know 

STD rash 

Unexplained lumps and bumps around the genitals can be a cause for concern but it’s important to know that not every rash is an STD rash. 

It is equally important to be able to identify when a rash has been caused by an STD. 

Let’s talk about which sexually transmitted diseases cause rashes as well as what you should do if you think you have an STD. 

Which sexually transmitted infections cause an STD rash?

The symptoms of sexually transmitted infections depend on the type of STD you have. 

Some of the sexually transmitted diseases that cause an STD rash include: 

  • Syphilis 
  • Herpes 
  • Scabies 
  • Crabs (pubic lice)

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What does a syphilis rash look like?

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During the secondary stage of syphilis, a rash may form on one or more areas of your body. The rash may look red or brown. The texture of the rash is generally quite rough, but it can also be completely flat over your skin. It sometimes presents on the bottom of your hands or feet

A syphilis rash will typically begin after the chancre (sore) during the primary stage of syphilis lessens. The rash may present shortly after the chancre has gone down or several weeks after. The rash can be faint and hard to spot so you may not be able to notice it. 

A syphilis rash usually won’t itch, and it will heal on its own without leaving scars. However, in some cases it can cause discoloration of your skin which will lessen over time. But this doesn’t mean that the virus will be out of your system — instead, you will move into the latent syphilis stage unless you receive treatment.

Other symptoms to look out for during this stage include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired).

Find out everything you need to know about how a syphilis test works. 

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Get Tested for Syphilis with LetsGetChecked - At Home STD Testing Kit with Treatment Included

What does a herpes rash look like?

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A herpes rash tends to look like a cluster of small fluid filled blisters in or around the mouth and/or genitals. You may also experience intense tingling, itching, burning, or pain in the area before the blisters appear.
These blisters will typically break open and form sores, which will then scab over before healing.

Herpes rashes are also known as “outbreaks”. Outbreaks usually appear near the mouth or genitals but they can appear in other places on the body. Most of the time, the outbreak will appear in the first place you were affected by the herpes simplex virus. 

As Nurx summarises: “After the initial exposure, the herpes virus invades the nerves in the body that supply the skin area, remaining in those nerves for the rest of the person’s life. When it is active, the virus moves to the mucous membrane or skin of the infected area and copies itself, causing the outbreak to occur. It will then move back into the nerves to remain dormant until the next outbreak.”

Find out everything you need to know about how a herpes test works. 

Get Tested for Herpes

What does a scabies rash look like?

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Scabies is considered to be an STI because it is often spread through sexual contact. Scabies is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. 

A scabies rash typically looks like white, pink or red bumps. They can take on a blister-like appearance. Scabies rash can affect all parts of the body however, it most commonly affects the feet and hands. A scabies rash can look similar to a syphilis rash. However, scabies will cause intense itching which is usually worst at night, when the mites that cause it are more active.

What does a crabs (pubic lice) rash look like?

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The symptoms of pubic lice usually start 5 days after you get them. Crabs are tiny parasitic insects that feed on blood, which means they bite.

Crabs or pubic lice often reside in pubic hair, which is why they can be passed easily through sex. The most common symptom of crabs is intense itching in the genital area.

Though the parasite that causes crabs will not directly cause a rash, the itching that comes with them can lead to redness, and lumps and bumps in and around the genital area. 

What STDs cause small red bumps?

Syphilis, herpes and scabies can all lead to the appearance of small red bumps in and around the genital area. 

What is usually the first sign of an STD?

The first sign of an STD will depend on the type of STD you have contracted. 

How long does it take for an STD to show up?

The incubation period (length of time it takes for STD symptoms to appear) will depend on the type of STD you have contracted, but on average, it can take up to two weeks for an sexually transmitted infection to appear. Some STDs, such as HIV, can take much longer than that to cause any symptoms.


Where can I get an at home STD test?

There are a number of great at home STD testing options on the market. STDwatch.com has put together a list of the best home STD tests in 2021 where you can find the best test for your needs. 

How do you put on a condom?

  1. Carefully remove the condom from the wrapper
  2. Check the condom for any breaks or tears 
  3. Place the condom at the tip of your penis (if you are circumcised, pull back the foreskin before doing so)
  4. Unroll the condom to the base of the penis 
  5. Once you and your partner are finished, carefully and slowly pull out while holding the base of your penis to prevent drip from the condom 
  6. Discard the condom 

Read: How to put on a condom plus facts & myths

How do you get an STD?

You can get an STD via: 

  • Vaginal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Anal sex
  • Intimate skin-to-skin contact 
  • Close intimate contact 
  • The sharing of infected needles or exposure to infected blood

Read: How do you get an STD? Everything you need to know


Hannah Kingston

Hannah Kingston

Dec 11, 2022

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