7 Silent STDs That Can Lead To Long-Term Health Complications Without Treatment

April 22, 2019
by John Kelly, MD
7 Silent STDs That Can Lead To Long-Term Health Complications Without Treatment

In 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded a record number of sexually transmitted diseases – over two million. However, the real number may be even higher as many STDs can stay hidden for months or years, as they have no obvious symptoms.

While doctors suggest people get regular screenings and take proactive measures to protect themselves, it’ still important to get screened as many common STDs show no symptoms or show very little symptoms. What are some of the common STDs a person can get and have little to no symptoms?


The most common STD in the U.S. is chlamydia with more than 1.7 million cases being reported in 2017. The majority of cases occurred in 15 to 24-year-olds. It’s known as a silent disease because it can lead to ovarian, fallopian tubes and endometrial lining scarring. Scarring can also increase a woman’s risk for ectopic pregnancies and infertility.

However, a week’s worth of antibiotics can completely clear up the infection.

Genital Herpes

Most people think of herpes as red sores that are painful to the touch. However, most genital herpes does not show symptoms but can still be transmitted to partners. At least one in six adults between 14 and 49 years of age have herpes, with most of them never showing any signs of having the disease. If they do show signs, they are often very mild.

There is no cure for this STD, and condoms don’t completely stop the transmission of the virus. There are several anti-herpes medications available, which can lower the chance of spreading the disease.


This infection is the result of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, and in 2017, there were over 550,000 cases reported. It’s the second most common STD in the U.S., following chlamydia. The problem with gonorrhea is that it has no symptoms, and untreated gonorrhea could cause pelvic inflammatory disease, inability to get pregnant, scar tissue blocking fallopian tubes and constant stomach pains.

Women who are infected with gonorrhea and pregnant could pass the infection onto their baby during delivery. This could lead to serious health complications for the newborn.

Doctors are considered about the emergence of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. For gonorrhea that’s not resistant, there is a one-time shot of Ceftriaxone as well as oral antibiotics.

Hepatitis B

The U.S. has seen a drop in hepatitis B infections after the 1991 recommendation of routine vaccines to children. And, adults who have the disease often find that it clears up on its own. However, for chronic hepatitis B, there is a chance for it to become liver cancer. However, there are quite a few antiviral drugs to prevent this from happening and cure the infection.


A month of being transmitted with HIV, you may feel like you have the flu, but the virus can actually stay hidden for years after the initial infection.

The Mayo Clinic said a person who gets HIV and receives no treatment can live up to 10 years before it becomes AIDS. Still, HIV will lead to immunodeficiency, which increases one’s chance for cancer and other infections. Doctors urge people to get treatment if they suspect they have been exposed to HIV, as many drugs can actually expand a person’s lifespan to a normal range.

On top of that, antiviral medications allow people to engage in sexual intercourse without passing the virus onto their partner.


There are 150 HPV viruses in the world, which means nearly all men and women will get the disease. In most cases, the virus goes away on its own. When it doesn’t, it can lead to genital warts and various cancers such as vagina, cervix, anus and penis.

For HPV that doesn’t clear up, there is no cure. The only true way to protect one’s self is to get the HPV vaccine, which protects from nine kinds of the virus (those most commonly linked to cervical cancer).


This disease is the result of the Trichomoniasis vaginalis parasite. Women with this STD may experience, redness, itching, burning, pain during sex or urination or smelly discharge from their vagina. However, in most cases, there are no symptoms. If untreated, it can cause PID or lead to preterm labor in pregnant women.

The treatment for this disease is a course of the Glagyl antibiotic.


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