Most people think of sexually transmitted diseases as something that only occurs in the genital region of the body, making it a private problem. Unfortunately, STDs are infections and can affect the entire body, often showing up in the mouth.
STDs That Can Produce Symptoms Appearing on the Mouth
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 – Cold sores or fever blisters that form on the lips and inside of the mouth are really oral herpes caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). By age 20, most people have this virus, dormant in the nerves of the face. During times of stress, compromised immunity, and hormonal changes, the virus becomes active and creates blisters and sores. HSV-1 can be transmitted by personal contact, touching open sores or being in contact with shared items like towels and dishes.
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 – The herpes virus type 2 (HSV-2) most often causes genital herpes. However, sometimes HSV-2 is spread to the mouth during oral sex, causing oral herpes. As many as 22% of sexually active people have genital herpes from HSV-2, and most will show no symptoms and are unaware they have it. About half of people with herpes contract it from those who are unaware they are carrying it.
- Syphilis – A result of the Treponema pallidum bacterium, syphilis occurs after having sexual contact with someone who has open syphilitic lesions or sores called chancres. When transferred to the mouth during oral sex, symptoms can appear about 3-6 weeks after contact. Symptoms can range from a red rash and raised bumps to open lesions and sores on the lips, tongue and inside of the mouth.
- HPV – There are over 40 types of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes genital warts. HPV can also be transmitted to the mouth and throat through oral sex, infecting the mouth, tongue, throat and tonsils (known as the oropharynx area, thus the term oropharyngeal cancer). HPV causes raised bumps which look like warts, but it may not present any outward symptoms making it difficult to detect. There is no recommended test for oral HPV at this time.
- HIV/AIDS – Thrush occurs when the immune system is weakened by disease or drugs and there is an overgrowth of yeast in the body. Symptoms of thrush include white lesions or raised lesions with cottage cheese-like appearance on the tongue, inside the mouth and gums. Redness and bleeding gums, and cracking and redness at the corners of the mouth are also signs of thrush. Because thrush is the sign of a weakened immune system, it is a common indicator of diseases that damage and destroy the immune system such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. HIV makes the body susceptible to opportunistic infections and repeated bouts of oral thrush, along with other symptoms.