Sexually Transmitted Infections
In honor of April being STI Awareness month, it seems only fitting that I bring up the "S" acronym
Sexually Transmitted Infections.
There are two types of people on earth. Those who've had an STI and those who will get an STI.
Chances are you've engaged in anal, vaginal or oral sex. If not, you've more than likely treated yourself to bodily contact - even non-sexual bodily contact can spread some of these pesky infections. It's more important than ever to engage in open and honest communication with new and recurring sexual partners. Own your risk and prioritize your safety.
Proper condom usage & open communication reduces the likelihood of contracting an STI.
Just in case you've forgotten your high school health class, I've summarized some of the more common STIs, symptoms, and general advice below. Regardless, if you're sexually active, make it a habit to get checked regularly. If you have kids, get them vaccinated. Talk about sex before its too late. New infection rates among teens and young adults is increasing.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that typically spreads through anal, vaginal, or oral sex. Many people with Gonorrhea don’t show any symptoms. It’s important to be tested regularly, especially if you are engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners. Untreated it can lead to sterility, painful pelvic issues and potentially can be life threatening if the infection spreads to your joints / blood.
Chlamydia is another bacterial infection that typically spreads through anal, vaginal or oral sex. Similar to Gonorrhea, most people with Chlamydia don’t show any symptoms. It’s important to be tested regularly if you are engaging in sexual activity with new or multiple partners. Untreated Chlamydia can lead to difficulty getting pregnant and ectopic pregnancies which can be fatal. If you or one of your partners has been diagnosed with Chlamydia make sure to follow up in three months. Re-infection rates are high.
Herpes is a virus that stays with you forever and once you have it you can infect others. There is no cure. There are two types of the virus:
Oral Herpes is the cold sore variety commonly found around your mouth. An estimated half of the US population carry oral herpes resulting from non-sexual contact during childhood. According to the CDC, you can spread oral herpes to the genitals.
Genital Herpes is more common to the genitals with an estimated 1 in 6 adults infected. Herpes can be transmitted during sex and during skin-to-skin contact so a condom only reduces the risk. People can carry the disease and not present for it.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that left untreated can lead to significant health problems even if you don’t show symptoms. The infection has four stages each with different symptoms. Initial infection may present with sore/(s) at the infection site ( typically around the genitals, anus, rectum or mouth). The initial sores are usually firm, round and painless. The next stage you may experience a skin rash, swollen lymph nodes or fever. From there the infection can continue to do damage and may results in the final stage presenting as severe medical problems that may affect the heart, brain or other organs.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Nearly every person who is sexually active will contract a version of the infection. The good news is you can be vaccinated against a few of the strains of the infection. Typically, the infection clears itself. Some strains of the infection can result in genital warts and cancers. Warts can be treated by your health care practitioner. Cancer may take years to present. Condoms used correctly reduce the risk of infection.
Common symptoms of STIs
If you are experiencing anything unusual it’s important to be checked out, even if the sensations resemble a bladder or vaginal (for women) infection. Common symptoms:
- A burning or painful sensation when urinating;
- A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis; increased vaginal discharge / bleeding between periods
- Painful or swollen testicles (less common)
- Unusual rectal Discharge
- Anal itching; Soreness or Bleeding
- Painful bowel movements
If you have no symptoms and are sexually active, discuss periodic testing to stay safe.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms or if a partner has experienced these symptoms or has been diagnosed with an STI. You’ll want to abstain from sex until you’ve been tested and treated if need be. Wait until at least a week after you’ve finished all your medication before getting frisky again. Your partner(s) will thank you.
Many STIs including Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis and Herpes can also be transmitted to your baby if you are pregnant. Check with your doctor!