STDs That Cause Itching

STDs That Cause Itching

Table of Contents

  • Written by Dr. Shani Saks on 10 December 2021

There are 5 common sexually transmitted diseases, or STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) that cause genital itching.  These infections are:

Chlamydia

Gonorrhea

Trichomoniasis

Genital herpes

Genital warts.

If you are experiencing itching in the genital area, you should consult your physician for further testing and evaluation.  It is helpful to know about some of the common infections that might be causing your condition.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.  It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.  Most people have no symptoms of this disease.  However, some female patients will experience vaginal discharge, itching, and burning with urination.  Males might notice penile discharge, burning with urination, or testicular swelling or pain.  Your physician can diagnose chlamydia with a urine test, a urethral swab, or swab of the vagina or cervix.  If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, you will likely be prescribed an antibiotic, taken as a single dose or a 7 day regimen.  You should refrain from sexual intercourse before and during treatment, until 7 days after treatment is completed.

If you suspect you have chlamydia, it is important to get tested, since it can cause long term health issues if not properly treated.  Women with untreated chlamydia can have pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or ectopic pregnancies.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is another common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital itching.  It is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhea that is common in the 15-24 year old age bracket.  Women typically do not have symptoms, but this can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.  In contrast, 90% of males with gonorrhea do experience symptoms of rectal itching.  Rectal soreness, bleeding, and painful bowel movements may also be noticed.  Diagnosis is made by a rectal swab or urine sample.  Treatment for this condition includes either an injection of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, or oral azithromycin.  You should wait for one week after treatment is completed to resume sexual intercourse.  

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis.  Approximately 3.7 million people in the United States have this infection, about 30% of whom have symptoms.  Symptoms can begin to develop from 5 to 28 days after sexual contact with an infected person.  Symptoms may come and go. Women may experience vaginal symptoms including itching, burning, and redness of the genitals.  Urinary discomfort may also be noted.  Men might notice itching and irritation of the penis, burning with urination, or penile discharge.  Trichomoniasis is treated with metronidazole or tinidazole.   You can resume sexual activity one week after treatment concludes.  You should also be rechecked 3 months after treatment to ensure that the infection has not recurred.

Genital herpes 

Genital herpes is a virus caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2.  This infection occurs in about 1 out of 6 people in the United States, commonly in those who are 14-49 years old.  Most people have either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.  When symptoms do occur, a patient may notice one or more blisters around the genitals or rectum that could itch.  The blisters can be painful and seep when broken.  Other possible initial symptoms are fever, body aches, and swollen glands.  A doctor can usually diagnose genital herpes by physical exam alone, but a lab sample of the blister material can confirm the diagnosis.  Antiviral medications can decrease the transmissibility of genital herpes but cannot cure it.

Genital warts

Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.  These warts look like small, flesh-colored bumps, sometimes cauliflower shaped, clustered together.  Sometimes they are too small to be seen.  The warts can occur on the vulva, anus, or external genitals.  If oral sexual contact occurred, the warts can occur in the mouth.  The warts can sometimes bleed.  They can cause itching, redness, discomfort, and bleeding during sexual intercourse.  Your doctor can diagnose genital warts based on a physical exam, but sometimes the wart is biopsied to confirm the diagnosis.  There is no permanent cure for the warts; they tend to resolve on their own without treatment within about 18-24 months.

The warts can be removed with procedures such as cauterization, freezing, or laser, but can reoccur.

Complications of HPV infection include cervical cancer.  If a woman develops HPV infection, she should  have routine pap smears to monitor this condition.  Genital warts can enlarge during pregnancy and cause difficulty with urination or problems with vaginal tissue stretching during labor. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends routine HPV vaccination for 11-12 year old girls and boys to protect against cervical cancer and genital warts.

If you have been sexually active and develop symptoms of genital itching and redness, you should see your physician for further evaluation and treatment.

Sources: 

STDs – www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines

Chlamydia – Everything You Need To Know – www.STDwatch.com

HPV – www.mayoclinic.org


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