Sexually transmitted diseases are a serious problem. 50% of the population will contract an STD at some point in their life. It is essential to know about prevention, detection, and treatment.
STD Cases Increasing in the U.S.
Now is an especially important time to go over STD information. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cases have increased in the past couple years, and are at the highest they’ve been since 2006. What has happened in the past 10 years? Perhaps people are just not taking STDs seriously anymore, assuming that these diseases slowly disappeared. On the contrary, STDs are unfortunately alive and well.
One probable leading factor in the increase in STD cases is a decrease in education. Half of the people that are infected with a sexually transmitted disease are between 15 and 24. So, is a lack of education to blame? This is the age where people most commonly become sexually active. Perhaps it is a lack of education or that this is the age range where people tend to be less cautious and have the “it couldn’t happen to me” mentality. Well, we are going to go through some basic STD information that every person should know.
What Are STDs?
Let’s start with the basics. Sexually Transmitted Diseases are passed through sexual contact, from one person to another. Sometimes, depending on the disease, there are symptoms. However, most of the time there are no symptoms, so it is hard to see if a sexual partner is infected. Here are overviews of the three common STDs that have experienced a sad revival:
- Chlamydia: This is the most common STD in the United States. This disease is most commonly transferred during vaginal or anal sex, but can also be transferred through oral. It is not transmitted through ejaculation, so even if ejaculation does not occur, there is still a risk. 50% of men that have chlamydia do not show symptoms, but when they do the most common are burning when urinating, penal discharge, and the swelling of one or both testicles. Additionally, if the rectum is infected, rectal pain, discharge, and bleeding can occur. Chlamydia can be cured, since it is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are available to treat it. It is recommended that after treatment, the patient abstain from sex until testing shows chlamydia is no longer present. Treatment does not mean the patient can never get chlamydia again, so it is important to continue to practice safe sex.
- Gonorrhea: Also known as the clap or drip, this disease infects 800,000 people every year. There are often no symptoms, but men show symptoms more often than women. Only 1 out of 10 men don’t experience symptoms as opposed to 4 out of 5 women, or 20% of all women infected. Symptoms for men include frequent urination, pain while urinating, puss like penile discharge, anal itching, painful bowel movements, and throat pain if the disease was transmitted orally. A lot of the time gonorrhea goes hand in hand with chlamydia, and the treatment is often the same.
- Syphilis: This disease is a little more complex than the previous. Although it is spread the same way, it comes in 4 stages.
- Stage 1 : Sores begin to show around the area where penetration occurred, i.e. the mouth, penis, vagina, or anus, and sometimes on the hands and area around the eyes. The sore can often be mistaken for an ingrown hair or small cut, so it is important to get small sores checked out, even if it seems harmless. Sometimes the sores secrete clear mucus. This commonly occurs 2 to 10 weeks after exposure.
- Stage 2: A rash will appear 6 weeks to 3 months after the sore has healed. This rash could show up anywhere on the body, but most often shows up on the feet and hands. Then, lesions may appear that make the disease highly contagious. The rash often disappears without treatment. In this stage victims often experience fever, sore throat, headache, neck ache, joint pain, and hair loss.
- Stage 3 – Latent: This stage occurs within one year of infection (early latent), or after a year of infection (late latent). This is noninfectious, and can last from 3 to 30 years. In this stage, the bacteria remain in the lymph nodes and spleen.
- Stage 4 – Tertiary: This begins 3 or more years after infection and although the person is no longer contagious, they are in a dangerous stage. 30-40% of people that have syphilis will reach this stage. This stage is the most dangerous because although the person is no longer contagious, the syphilis will reactivate and spread throughout the body. This causes terrible symptoms such heart damage, tumor formation, paralysis, dementia, blindness, and more.
It is important to catch syphilis quickly, and penicillin can help at any stage. However, it is essential to catch it in the earlier stages, because damage accrued during the later stages is irreversible.
There are a couple ways to potentially avoid STDs without abstaining from sex. Although there will always be a risk, there are definite ways to decrease that risk. Here are some steps to decrease the risk of catching a STD:
- Use a Condom: This one is kind of a no brainer. Yes, condoms break, so there isn’t a 100% guarantee. But, it’s the best protection there is.
- Monogamy: Consistently sleeping with one person that has been tested before intercourse is a great way to ensure safe sex. Having a sexual partners test results is the best way to know intercourse is safe. This only works if both sexual partners are not engaging in sex elsewhere.
- Ask For Test Results: When engaging in sex with multiple partners, always be sure to ask for test results or if the person has had a recent STD test. Avoid sex with people that have not been recently tested. If they are sexually active with numerous people, chances are they could have an STD.
- Vaccinations: Certain STDs have vaccinations available. Ask a doctor about HPV or hepatitis vaccinations. For more information on HPV or hepatitis check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Please only engage in protected sex, unless in a monogamous and serious relationship. Keep all of this information in mind when having sex, and make sure to stay safe. If there are any questions, call Armor Men’s Health at (512) 238-0762 or fill out the contact sheet here.