Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
I found some red spots near my vagina...do I have an STD?
Lisa Oldson, MD on August 26, 2011
Thanks for describing your symptoms. Without a visual exam, it’s hard to know what the red spots on your vagina are. Some possibilities are STDs, but other conditions can cause red bumps near the vagina as well. To find out for sure, I encourage you visit your doctor for a visual exam. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts and suggestions that might be helpful to you:
First, STDs aren’t the only cause of red spots or bumps on or near the genitals...pimples or skin irritation are two potential causes. Your regular doctor should be able to identify ⎼ or at least rule out ⎼ certain conditions upon a visual examination.
That said, depending on your sexual behaviors, your symptoms are also similar to those of STD infections...genital herpes, for example, or ⎼ less likely ⎼ genital warts. Also, syphilis can cause vaginal sores, although typically those aren’t painful.
Knowing your risk for STDs is a good first step. For example, have you had unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who might be infected? Do you have multiple sexual partners, or did you recently start a new relationship and you’re not sure of your partner’s sexual history?
Remember, even nice and honest people can transmit STDs and many people have an STD without ever knowing it. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that of the 50 million Americans who have genital herpes, only approximately 10% are aware of their infection.
If any of these STD risk factors apply to you, I would encourage you to get tested for some of the most common STDs. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your STD status and, if you test positive for an STD, you’ll be in a good position to make informed decisions about treatment and how to reduce the risk of spreading an infection to others.
The good news is that all STDs are treatable and many are curable...and the sooner an STD is detected, the more effectively it can be treated so you can move on with your life.
You also mentioned that you’re feeling sick. It’s difficult to say what that means without knowing your specific symptoms and without an examination. However, sometimes people will have a fever along with painful genital sores if they have a new outbreak of genital herpes.
Again, red spots on the vagina could indicate an STD so I encourage you to visit your doctor for a visual examination and discuss the need for STD testing. Your doctor can help with testing for STDs or there are a number of confidential STD testing services available online.
Thanks for your question. For more information about risk factors and symptoms of common STDs, see our Expert Guides.
- CDC: Genital Herpes Fact Sheet
Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.