Uncommon STDs

Most people are aware of the common STDs like gonorrhea, Chlamydia and genital herpes, but they’re not the only sexually transmitted infections. The rare ones can be just as dangerous. Here’s a look at some uncommon sexually transmitted diseases.


Chancroid manifests as ulcers or sores on the genitals. The ulcers start as small bumps and within one or two days can grow into painful ulcers up to two inches wide. The base of the ulcer is covered with grey or yellow material, can have defined or irregular borders and bleeds easily when scraped. Besides the very distinctive sores, symptoms of Chancroid include pain and bleeding during intercourse, painful urination, and swollen lymph nodes in the area between the stomach and the leg.

A test is rarely needed for diagnosis and most doctors diagnose by looking at the genital sores. Sometimes a swab of the ulcer is taken to test for Haemophilus ducreyi, the bacteria that cause the infection. Chancroid is treated with three to seven days of antibiotics followed by a medical exam to see if the treatment was successful.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Those infected with molluscum contagiosum get raised fluid-filled bumps that spread through sexual or skin-to-skin contact. The bumps can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a pencil eraser or bigger for those with compromised immune systems. They’re usually painless but can become itchy. Diagnosis is done by a visual inspection or occasionally a biopsy. Most doctors will let the rash heal on its own which usually takes three to six months. Occasionally doctors will remove larger lesions by freezing them off, by laser, by specialized cream treatments or by curettage.

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

LGV is a variant of the Chlamydia virus and shows up as a small papule or bump within one to two weeks of exposure. The sores heal. Two to six weeks after the papule heals, patients experience swollen lymph nodes, fever, pain and possibly rectal bleeding and discharge. The third stage occurs five to 10 years after an untreated infection and can cause dangerous swelling and enlargement of local tissue and various organs which can be fatal. Diagnosis involves lab tests to try to distinguish this virus from Chlamydia as well as a careful analysis of medical history. LGV is easily treated with antibiotics if caught early.


Syphilis was once a highly common STD but effective treatments during the 20th century have reduced the number of cases. Symptoms of the disease include sores on the external genitals, vagina, in the rectum or around the anus. If not treated the disease spreads to the second stage where the patient gets rashes and experiences patchy hair loss, swollen lymph glands, weight loss, muscle aches, fatigue and a sore throat. The final stage can appear as long as 20 years after the initial infection and can cause gradual blindness, nerve damage, heart damage, brain damage and damage to the blood vessels. Dementia and paralysis are common. The infection is spread through direct contact with a sore through vaginal, anal or oral sex or by pregnant mothers to their unborn children. Syphilis is diagnosed through a blood test and examining a swab of the sore under a microscope. Antibiotic treatment is necessary in the early stages to prevent the disease from progressing.

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