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Types of STD That Causes Diarrhea: How to Differentiate from Flu?

Most sexually active people assume that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) only affect the genital area. Well-known symptoms like genital warts or lesions may send you looking for the nearest STD testing location. However, sexually transmitted diseases also have several lesser-known symptoms.

The early signs of an STD may mimic common illnesses such as a cold or the flu. There are even some STDs that cause diarrhea.

You can also visit a conveniently located Rapid STD Testing clinic to determine if your symptoms are STD-related. We offer same-day STD testing and counseling to empower you with the knowledge you need to live a happy, healthy life.

What Happens in Your Body When You Have Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is uncomfortable and embarrassing. However, you may not understand why it occurs or what happens in your body when you have diarrhea.

Self-Limiting Diarrhea

Typically, you experience diarrhea due to certain foods, viruses, bacteria, or digestive disorders. Some causes of diarrhea include:

  • Viral infections like rotavirus, norovirus, and Hepatitis A
  • Bacterial infection
  • Food poisoning.

Regardless of its cause, many viral or bacterial diarrhea cases are self-limiting, which means they don’t last for long periods or require medical care.

Chronic Diarrhea

On the other hand, diarrhea caused by digestive disorders may require treatment or lifestyle changes to restore healthy bowel movements. Common diseases that cause diarrhea include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Colitis
  • Food intolerances

Diarrhea can have countless other causes as well. The parasitic infection, giardia, can impact your body’s ability to absorb fluids, resulting in loose stools. Antibiotics can also inflame the digestive tract and trigger diarrhea. Finally, you can develop diarrhea while traveling through Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, or Africa.

Diarrhea’s Effect on Your Body

No matter what causes diarrhea, your GI system becomes disrupted. Your body can no longer absorb fluids and nutrients from food. As a result, food and drinks pass through your body quickly and causes frequent, loose, watery stools. You may experience bloating, cramping, or nausea and feel a strong need to use the restroom. Prolonged diarrhea can even cause severe pain, bleeding, and fever.

As mentioned above, your body usually recovers from diarrhea without medical treatment. However, if a disorder or an STD results in ongoing diarrhea that lasts for more than two to four weeks, you could experience severe complications, including:

  • Dehydration: Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in. You can become dehydrated while playing sports, exercising, working outside in hot weather, or experiencing diarrhea and vomiting. Dehydration causes symptoms such as fatigue, dark-colored urine, confusion, dizziness, and extreme thirst.
  • Electrolyte Disorders: Electrolyte disorders can occur when your body’s electrolyte levels are too high or too low. Your body needs a careful balance of electrolytes, including calcium, chloride, phosphate, sodium, and magnesium, to function correctly. If your electrolyte levels become imbalanced, you may experience common symptoms such as a fast heart rate, lethargy, nausea, confusion, numbness, or seizures.
  • Kidney Failure: When left untreated, diarrhea can cause extreme dehydration, leading to kidney problems or even failure. Also known as acute renal failure, kidney failure can set in within a few hours. Symptoms of kidney failure include infrequent urination, extreme fatigue, joint pain, confusion, seizures, coma, and swelling in your lower extremities.

Is There an STD That Gives You Diarrhea?

When it comes to your sexual health, paying close attention to the early signs and symptoms of an infection can prevent complications in the future.

Many people aren’t sure if the flu or something more severe is causing their headache, fever, and diarrhea. A variety of STDs can cause bowel problems.

Sneaky STD symptoms that mirror the flu are often a sign that a sexually transmitted infection has progressed. While not all conditions mimic the flu, some of the STDs that cause diarrhea include:

1. HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is one of the most feared and complex sexually transmitted diseases. The virus damages your immune system by destroying the T-Cells needed to keep it strong and functioning normally.

HIV progresses slowly. The virus can take up to ten years to develop into AIDS. Early detection from a rapid STD test and medically supervised treatment can help reduce the virus load as well, allowing you to live a long, happy, healthy life.

If you think you may have been exposed to the infection, get tested early and pay attention to common HIV symptoms, including:

  • Body rash
  • Fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Night sweats
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Vaginal infections
  • Diarrhea

2. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that passes through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The bacteria typically targets moist, warm areas of your body, such as your eyes, throat, vagina, or anus. Despite its easy transmissibility, most people don’t notice any symptoms of gonorrhea.

If you do develop symptoms, they will typically onset within two days to two weeks of exposure and may include:

  • Frequent or urgent urination
  • Pus-like discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in the lower stomach
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful bowel movements

3. Chlamydia

Like gonorrhea, chlamydia is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection passed through unprotected sex or contact with the genitals of an infected person. Chlamydia can go undetected for years. However, symptoms include:

  • Burning during urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal or penal discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Diarrhea 

4. Herpes

The herpes simplex virus (HSV) — better known as genital herpes — is a viral STI that causes painful, fluid-filled blisters to develop around your genitals. Symptoms of herpes include:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Blisters on the mouth, lips, face, or genitals
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful bowel movements

Does Syphilis Cause Diarrhea?

The most common symptoms of syphilis include flat, grayish-white warts around your genitals, mouth, or throat. However, other signs of the infection include diarrhea, headaches, or body aches.

If you’re experiencing severe diarrhea or other flu-like symptoms, our Rapid STD Testing 10-Panel STD test can determine if you’ve contracted an STD that causes diarrhea.

How to Know if Your Diarrhea is from STD or from Flu?

In reality, it’s challenging to determine if your diarrhea is from an STD or the flu without a blood or urine test. Diarrhea, abdominal pain, and painful bowel movements have many causes, from the stomach flu to food poisoning, bacterial infections, and more.

Developing diarrhea doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve contracted an STD. Because of the complexity of the infections, STDs are nearly impossible to diagnose based on a single symptom.

Diarrhea combined with painful bowel movements and other symptoms like discomfort during sex, burning while urinating, swollen lymph nodes, and night sweats may point to an STD. Consulting a doctor or medical professional at one of our confidential Rapid STD Testing clinics is the only way to know if your diarrhea is a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease.

At Rapid STD Testing, we offer a wide range of individual and multi-panel tests, including:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • Early Detection Testing for HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

With Rapid STD Testing, you’ll receive results in one to three days. Most importantly, your tests will be completely private and confidential; only you and our staff of experienced doctors will know that you tested, what you tested for, and what the test results revealed.

Treatment Options for STD Associated with Diarrhea

Treating an STD can feel overwhelming, but medical care is the only way to ensure that the infection clears up. If you’ve just been diagnosed with an STD, you may not know where to start.

Our STD counselors at Rapid STD Testing can help. We’ll guide you through the testing, treatment, and care process. Following a positive test result, our doctors will determine the next best steps for your needs. You can then follow up with your healthcare provider or a center like Planned Parenthood to receive ongoing care, attention, or additional testing.

You will likely recover from a bacterial STI, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, following a round of antibiotics. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with an STD with no cure, such as HIV, you will likely need ongoing treatment to prevent the infection from progressing.

Treating STDs associated with diarrhea can be slightly more complicated. Some of the medications used to treat STDs cause diarrhea and can intensify the effects of the infection. For example, diarrhea is a common side effect of the antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV.

Talk with your doctor if you notice that your diarrhea lasts for more than two to four weeks after beginning treatment. They may recommend a different treatment method or prescribe a medication known as Crofelemer, an antidiarrheal that the FDA approved to reduce diarrhea caused by HIV treatments.

Your doctor may recommend Crofelemer alongside antibiotics for STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea, too. Crofelemer manages noninfectious diarrhea, which occurs for reasons other than a viral or bacterial infection.

You can also make lifestyle changes to manage your bowel movements, such as:

  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Drinking clear liquids
  • Removing dairy products from your diet
  • Avoiding greasy, fried, or spicy foods
  • Eating at least 20 grams of fiber each day

Treatment for HIV

While there is currently no cure for HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help control the virus’s progression.

ART can reduce your viral load to an undetectable level through a process called viral suppression. However, it cannot eliminate the virus entirely. You can also help support treatment by eating a healthy, balanced diet, sleeping well, and staying active.

Treatment for Gonorrhea

Doctors treat gonorrhea with antibiotics. You will likely receive an injection of the antibiotic ceftriaxone into a muscle, followed by a single, oral dose of azithromycin, another antibiotic. If the gonorrhea infection has progressed or entered your bloodstream, you may need IV antibiotics to recover successfully.

Treatment for Chlamydia

Like gonorrhea, antibiotics can easily cure chlamydia. Make sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, take all of your medication, and return for additional testing if symptoms continue.

Treatment for Herpes

There is currently no cure for the herpes virus. Your doctor will likely prescribe antiviral medication to minimize outbreaks, speed up healing after an outbreak, and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.

Testing and Treatment for STD and Diarrhea from Rapid STD Testing

No matter what type of STD you may have been exposed to, we know that you might feel afraid, embarrassed, and uncertain about how to proceed. Our team at Rapid STD Testing can help.

If you think you’ve may have been exposed to an STD that causes diarrhea, please call today to speak to a Rapid STD Testing counselor or visit one of our clinics for confidential testing and fast, accurate results.