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STDs That Show on Your Face

It’s safe to say that sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are neither enjoyable nor welcome. Discussions on the topic are uncomfortable, images of infections may be visually disturbing and falling victim to even the mildest of STDs can be a real relationship deal-breaker.

Given the severity of all that, there’s no greater embarrassment than STDs that show on your face. So, save yourself the embarrassment and protect your health by learning how to spot an STD before it gets to you — as AM examines STDs that show on your face.

1. Syphilis

Shows up as large, open sores on your lips and mouth

What is it? Syphilis is caused by infection of the Treponema pallidum bacterium and is spread by direct sexual contact (including oral) with an individual with infectious syphilis lesions (called chancres). These chancres usually appear about three to six weeks after sex at the site of sexual contact, usually the genitals, during what is called primary syphilis. Secondary syphilis symptoms appear about 4 to 10 weeks after the appearance of primary lesions if the infection is left untreated and tertiary symptoms may appear after that. Treatment can be successfully achieved using antibiotics.

How it shows up on your face. Both primary and secondary syphilis can show up on your face, and this usually happens by having oral sex with someone with genital lesions. Primary syphilis of the face will usually appear on the lips as a large, open sore. Sores may also be present on the tongue or inside the mouth.

Secondary syphilis can have a range of symptoms. Some raised bumps may appear in-and-around the mouth, a reddish rash may appear all over the body and the infected person may even suffer abnormal hair loss (alopecia). Secondary symptoms are also likely to arise from infection due to genital sex, not just oral, as well.

2. Genital Herpes

Shows up as cold sores around the mouth

What is it? Genital herpes is caused by two types of herpes viruses, HSV-1 and HSV-2 (not to be mistaken with human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes genital warts). Now for the frightening stuff: As many as 45 million Americans aged 12 or older have genital herpes (that’s one in every five individuals folks) and as many as 80 percent to 90 percent of those people fail to recognize their symptoms or show no symptoms at all.

Herpes can be spread both by direct sexual contact (including oral) and through saliva (kissing) with an infected individual. The virus can be spread even when there are no symptoms showing, although transmission is more likely when there are symptoms.

HSV-1 generally causes cold sores, but can also cause genital herpes. This means that you can catch genital herpes from having oral sex performed on you by someone with cold sores (although it’s not that common). Also, keep in mind that cold sores are not the same as canker sores. HSV-2 on the other hand only causes genital herpes. There is currently no cure for genital or oral herpes and both conditions are prone to flare up or recur during times of stress or when the immune system is compromised. Treatment can, however, be used to control symptoms.

How it shows up on your face. Cold sores in-and-around the mouth and lips can appear from kissing someone who has an HSV-1 infection (even if they are not showing symptoms) or from performing oral sex on someone with HSV-1 genital herpes (although getting cold sores this way is not as common).


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3. Chlamydia

Shows up in the eyes (“pink eye”) and may cause blindness

What is it? Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium and is spread by all forms of sex including oral. As many as 2.3 million Americans are thought to be infected with Chlamydia. That’s about 1 in 20 for the general population. Chlamydia is, however, more common in teenage girls with estimates hitting the 10% mark. Part of the reason that Chlamydia is more common in females is because symptoms are lacking in anywhere from 70 percent to 80 percent of all women.

For this reason Chlamydia is often called the “silent epidemic.” It is also one of the leading causes of infertility in young women. Men may also show no symptoms, although they do tend to show symptoms more often. Chlamydia can cause pain during urination, discharge from the penis/vagina, pain or inflammation in the testicles and bleeding after sex in women. Treatment can be successfully achieved using antibiotics.

How it shows up on your face. Aside from classic symptoms, Chlamydia may also end up infecting the eye (sometimes called “pink eye” or conjunctivitis). In adults, Chlamydia-related eye infections are primarily caused by sexual contact, specifically from touching the eye after touching the genitals or genital secretions of an infected individual (including you). Even direct ejaculate into the eye has been reported to cause Chlamydia eye infection. Lastly, though rare, eye-to-eye transmission (e.g., from sharing mascara) has also been observed.

On Your Face

Sex has and probably always will be fairly carefree and impulsive endeavor, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unsafe. Although nobody wants to spoil the mood by a pre-coitus STD chat, a little common sense and caution can save you a lot of trouble. Maybe most important to remember is this: While oral sex might not get you pregnant, it sure has heck can still give you an STD — one that might even show up on your face.