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Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: Dec 13, 2018
Last Modified Date: Dec 13, 2018
Published Date: Dec 13, 2018

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1: Sexually Transmitted Diseases: The Basics
Chapter 2: The Public Health Burden of STD’S
Chapter 3: Signs and Symptoms of STDs
Chapter 4: Importance of Getting Tested
Chapter 5: Sexual Health and Common Questions


Sexually Transmitted Diseases: The Basics

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, also referred to as STD’s or venereal diseases, are infections that are transmitted from an infected person to another through sexual contact: anal, vaginal or oral. With more than 20 types, this family of infections has been preoccupying the world for some time now. Sexually transmitted infections are the result of being exposed to bacteria, yeasts, viruses and parasites. While these are a burden on both sexes, their impact is more exponential in women. Women can even spread further the infection to their fetus, when pregnant; and, this is one of the main reasons why getting tested for STD’s is of major importance.

Medicinal treatments of STDs can be highly effective

While STD’s that are caused by a bacteria, yeast or parasite, can be treated using specific antibiotics; infections yielding from viruses cannot be treated, but instead only managed. Such medicines would then keep the disease in control. While most infections can have a significant impact on the quality of life of a person, prevention is the key and constitutes of a simple latex condom used correctly during intercourse. Even condoms cannot completely eliminate the risks that are normally eradicated by abstinence. The following will explain more about the numerous types of STD’s and everything you need to know about them.

While there are more than twenty types of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, these are the most common: Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, Gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, HPV, Syphilis and Trichomoniasis.

Facts about STD’s

  • You can have an STD and have no symptoms. Some STDs can be present for years without symptoms. Don’t assume anything.
  • Knowing your partner well, practicing safe sex and getting tested when needed, will minimize your chances of getting an STD.
  • People from all walks of life get STDs, not just those who are promiscuous.
  • Testing for common STDs is done through a simple blood or urine sample that can be ordered conveniently online.
  • Being in love does not provide protection from an STD. Both partners should be tested if any questions arise.
  • Same sex couples are at the same risk of an STD as heterosexual couples.

More Information and Resources

Detailed Information on: HIV; Chlamydia; Herpes; Gonorrhea; Syphilis; Hepatitis

The Public Health Burden of STD’S

Just like any big impact disease, STD’s present a lot of risks on the person himself, society and the wellbeing of an entire nation. These sexual illnesses are on the rise and the CDC has a recent STD report to overview this massive burden.

In 2017, chlamydia trachomatis infected about 1,708,569 individual in the United States. This places this infection as a top rated one. Reports showed also an increase of 6.9% in the incidence rates of Chlamydia since 2016. This increase was noted in both genders, all over the United States and among all races and ethnic groups. The rates of Chlamydia are the highest among adolescents and young adults.

Gonorrhea, in 2017, witnessed a total of 555,608 cases and got ranked as the second most common STD in the USA. The increase in this illness was in the range of 18% when compared to 2016 and 75% when compared to year 2009. The cases were common in both genders, all over the states and among all races and ethnic groups.

Syphilis affected the lives of 30,644 cases in the USA in 2017. This infection’s incidence rates have been increasing exponentially throughout the years. With a notable spike of 10.6%, syphilis is affecting genders, all races and 72% of the states. From another angle, this infection has seen an increase in its congenital rates by 43.8% when comparing 2017 to year 2016; and, an increase of 153.3% when compared to the 2013 numbers.

Most people worry about STD transmission among teenagers whom often take sexual risks due to misinformation or inexperience; but, recent research suggests that these diseases are also on the rise among adults over the age of 25. These infections are spreading at an increased rate due, partly, to the fact that most people spreading them don't know that they have such infections at all. Since most STIs show no symptoms, especially in the early stages, STD testing is a vital step to keep the population healthy. One may even say that STD testing is the essence to keeping such infections from spreading further and inflicting all sorts of impacts on nations.

Rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the US

More Statistics

About one out of every 30 baby boomers has or will develop hepatitis C. Around 20 million older adults have HPV, the virus that causes genital warts; and, is associated with greater risks of cervical cancer. Also, 3 million have chlamydia. Actually, one out of six adults has herpes and may not know it, since this disease doesn't always produce the painful sores for which it is best known. Experts estimate that for every million reported cases of an STI, another two million go unreported due to lack of testing.

The rate of infection is actually increasing, mostly among those who are over the age of 50. According to researchers published in the Student British Medical Journal, many older adults are actually in denial about their need to practice safe sex. In this same age group, studies have discovered that the total number of new cases of HIV doubled in the 2000s. Other disease rates are also increasing: gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are also on the rise among people between the ages of 45 and 64. While many prefer to think of older people as sexually inactive, more than 80 percent of people between the ages of 50 and 90 are engaging in sexual activity, with real consequences

When one wants to understand the true burden of a give disease, he ought to look at its statistics. Here is what the latest reports of the American Sexual Health Association show:

  • In the USA, 20 million people get infected with an STD every year and the numbers are on the rise with 50% of the infections happen among those between age 15 and 24.
  • It was estimated that there is a 50/50 chance of contracting an STD by age 25 if you are sexually active.
  • The CDC believes that 24,000 women are infertile, yearly; because they have STD’s and have not been diagnosed or tested.
  • STDS are costing the USA, annually, around 16 billion American dollars.
  • Studies show that 80% of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life. Also, studies between 2013 and 2014 showed around 40% of men and women who fall between ages 18 and 59 had HPV.
  • 50% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have herpes simplex virus-1, otherwise known as oral herpes.
  • According to the CDC, there are 850,000 infected people with Hepatitis B in the USA. While the rates have been decreasing enormously throughout the years, another kind of Hepatitis still exists: Hepatitis C.
  • HIV is an illness that has a major impact on its subject. Up till now, about 1 million people have HIV in the USA; and, 1 in 7 does not even know they have it. Studies in 2013 showed that 42% of Americans who have HIV are older than 50 years.

STD’s and Elderly

If you are under the age of 50, it may surprise you to know that today’s senior citizens are almost as sexually active as many of their younger counterparts. Nearly three in four men; and, about half of women between the ages of 57 – 72 report having sex on average four times a month, according to studies in the Journals of Gerontology done in 2011.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 67 percent of men and 39 percent of women aged 65 to 74 said they had sex within the past year, while 38 percent of men older than 75 said the same. That’s good news, since many healthcare providers and mental health professionals contend that an active sex life is an important component of good health as we age.

The bad news is that seniors 55 and older are also seeing an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a dramatic rise in sexually transmitted infection rates between 2007 and 2011, with rates highest among 45 to 65-year olds. Even HIV is becoming a problem for older adults. About 19 percent of the 1.1 million Americans living with an HIV infection are 55 or older and about five percent of the new infections (incidence rates) are coming from this age group.

Syphilis, too, has made a comeback, along with gonorrhea and the more common STD, chlamydia. Some statistics show the rates for these infections to have doubled among adults in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The reasons vary but as stated in a 2012 medical article, published by researchers at Kings College and Saint Thomas Hospital in London, England, safe sex awareness among seniors and the reluctance of healthcare providers to address the issue are a major stumbling block in reversing the trend.

All in all about the burden of STD’ on the American population

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more common in the U.S. than many people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of reported new STD infections reached record-setting highs in 2016. The agency states that these diseases are becoming epidemic, and that the epidemic is getting worse, especially among young women, gay and bisexual men, and newborn infants, to whom some STDs can be transmitted before or during birth by infected mothers. While those groups may be at highest risk, the fact is, all people who are sexually active face the risk of being infected with common STDs.

So, what do you need to know to protect yourself? Perhaps the most important thing to be aware of is that using protection consistently and correctly during vaginal, anal or oral sex can reduce your risk of STD infections. Secondly, using protection helps, but is by no means foolproof. Getting regular lab tests to screen for common STDs is essential to protecting your sexual health. The array of transmitted diseases that you should be getting tested for, has to be comprehensive to keep you safe. While many can feel that such infections could never happen to them; this is not the case. Nobody is protected when being an individual who is sexually active. So, take some time to get tested. Better be safe than sorry and having to deal with a high impact infection that you could carry all your life.

Rate of STDs by Age

Risk Factors of STD

There are many factors that can be causing STD’s for those at higher risk. Many times, individuals don't know or understand which reasons put them at risk of infection. Some STD's can be transmitted in surprising ways. For those at risk, regular comprehensive testing can help prevent unintended transmissions. Further, early diagnosis of some STD's can greatly improve treatment options; and, avoid hassles associated with full blown infection. This is a sensitive subject matter. The graphic below attempts to highlight important things to remember for those who are sexually active.

Signs and Symptoms of STDs

Signs and symptoms can differ from a type of STD to another. Here is a general idea of how such infections can exacerbate themselves.

Common STD Symptoms: Learn the Signs of STDs and Get Tested

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are an extremely prevalent problem. In fact, according to the CDC, they are among the most common infectious diseases reported in the United States, with approximately 20 million new infections occurring every year and about 110 million existing cases in total. Lack of both sexual awareness and routine testing for STDs are seen as important factors contributing to the high incidence rates of these infections. Many affected individuals are unaware of their infection and unknowingly transmitting STDs to others.

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk, with more than half of all people in the U. S. contracting an STD during their lifetimes. The highest risk, that is accounting for about half of new infections annually, is among individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, despite the fact that they account for just 25 percent of the sexually active population. For these reasons, the CDC recommends STD screening for all sexually active individuals at least once a year. However, even for those who are tested regularly, knowing and watching for common STD symptoms between health screenings is very important to avoid long-term health risks and the possibility of spreading infection.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia can cause numerous complications

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the U.S. It is a bacterial infection that occurs in both men and women, and can be easily cured with antibiotic medications. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause permanent damage to sexual organs, especially in women. While it is often asymptomatic in its early stage, symptoms may appear one to three weeks after infection and can include:

  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis
  • In women, pain during sexual intercourse
  • In men, testicular pain.

Gonorrhea

Another bacterial infection, gonorrhea grows in the genital tract and is the second most frequently reported infectious disease. Without antibiotic therapy to clear the infection, this disease can eventually do permanent damage to the reproductive system, joints and heart. New drug-resistant strains make prompt treatment more important than ever. Gonorrhea does not always produce STD symptoms; but, when it does, they generally appear within 14 days of infection. These can include:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Yellowish, thick or bloody discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Abdominal pain
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Pain or swelling in the testicles
  • Anal itching
  • Painful bowel movements

Syphilis

Once nearly eradicated in the U.S., syphilis is back and its incidence rate is on the rise. A bacterial infection, syphilis can be cured with antibiotic therapy. It is particularly dangerous when left untreated, and is capable of damaging the brain, nerves, liver, eyes, blood vessels, heart, bones and joints. Early symptoms of the disease are mild and often go undetected. These can include:

  • Small painless sores on or inside the genitals, mouth or rectum
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash characterized by red or reddish brown spots
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a viral infection, spread through sexual contact. It is extremely contagious, and enters the body through small openings in the skin or mucous membranes. While the disease cannot be cured, antiviral medications can suppress outbreaks. STD symptoms that can be associated with the initial stage of genital herpes include:

  • Small, red bumps, blisters or open sores in the genital or anal area
  • Itching or pain in the genitals, thighs or buttocks
  • Flu like symptoms, including fever, body aches and swollen lymph nodes

Other common STDs that all sexually active people should be aware of and get screened for, on a regular basis include hepatitis, trichomoniasis HIV, HPV and genital warts. Since the majority of STDs are easily treated and many can cause serious health effects if they are not, early detection is vital. Unfortunately, STDs often go undetected for some time, since many present with very subtle symptoms or, in some individuals, no symptoms at all. Another issue that commonly leads to a failure to detect and treat STDs is the intimate nature of these conditions. Many who notice possible STD symptoms are hesitant to bring their concerns to their regular health care provider due to being embarrassed or fearing getting judged.

General symptoms and effects of an STD

However, there are STD testing options that do not involve an awkward discussion with your family doctor about your sex life. STD clinics offer discrete testing in many areas, or for a higher level of confidentiality, STD screening tests can be even ordered directly through private medical testing services, such as Health Testing Centers. With Health Testing Centers, STD screening tests can be inconspicuously ordered online. Individuals who need assistance selecting the appropriate tests can speak, confidentially, to a nurse by phone for professional advice.

Common STDs in Females

STD stands for sexually transmitted diseases. They may also be referred to as STIs, which stands for sexually transmitted infections. These are contagious diseases that are primarily spread from one person to another via sexual contact. This can include vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact. Some of the most common STDs in women are:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) – This is the most common STD among women. In fact, since there are more than 40 variations of the HPV virus, nearly everyone who is sexually active will be infected with at least one of them in their lifetimes. While many varieties are harmless, some are linked to the development of genital warts, while other strains are associated with cervical cancer, which makes HPV of particular concern for women.

Chlamydia – A bacterial STD, chlamydia is another of the most commons STDs in the U.S. The bacteria at the root of chlamydia infections is spread from one person to another via vaginal, oral or anal sex. While it can cause symptoms, such as pain or burning during urination or discharge from the vagina or penis, it is often a silent disease, with infected people showing no signs or symptoms.

Gonorrhea – Another bacterial infection, Gonorrhea is very commonly diagnosed in women. Both Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can have serious consequences for a woman's fertility; and, often have few symptoms. Getting tested for either of these should be a high priority if a woman is sexually active and wants to have children someday. Symptoms are common in most men, but infected women are less likely to exhibit signs. Burning or pain in urination and unusual discharge from the vagina or penis are at the top of noticeable symptoms.

Genital herpes – This very common STD is caused by a virus that is passed very easily from one person to the next, via sex and/or skin-to-skin contact. Risk of spreading the virus is greatest when an infected person is having an outbreak, which appears as one or more blisters or sores around the genitals, anus or mouth. However, the disease can also be spread when there are no visible signs of the disease, since the virus can be shed from the skin between outbreaks. Many people who are infected with herpes have no symptoms or very mild ones and are unaware of their condition. This viral STD, also known as HSV-2 affects about 16% of Americans, according to the CDC. And the number could be even higher because new research shows that increasingly, cases of Genital Herpes are caused by HSV-1, the virus that causes cold sores. The Herpes virus in any form infects mucus membranes, and since the vagina has a larger proportion of these membranes than does the penis, women are more vulnerable to infection with this STD than are men.

HIV- This virus is transmitted by contact with blood or certain body fluids. It is most commonly spread through vaginal or anal sex and can be acquired during oral sex under certain circumstances. Over time, when left untreated, HIV infection can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a disease that slowly destroys the immune system. People who are infected with HIV often show no symptoms for years. People who do have symptoms often have vague ones that can easily be mistaken for the flu, a common cold or other mild ailment. HIV is an infection that affects both men and women with a big focus on MSM.

How is HIV transmitted?

While these may be the more common STDs in females, there are others that women should be aware of, including Hepatitis B and the following:

Syphilis: This is another STD caused by bacteria. It is among the most common STDs and becoming more spread, with a growing number of cases reported in recent years. You can become infected with this STD via contact with the sores it causes in its early stages, typically via sexual contact. These sores may be in or around the vagina, on or near the penis, on the lips, inside the mouth, or in or around the anus. It can also be passed from an infected mother to an unborn child. Many people have no symptoms, but some will develop a syphilis sore shortly after getting the infection, which is often mistaken for an ingrown hair or pimple. A rash sometimes breaks out on the body in the early stages of the disease as well.

Trichomoniasis: Commonly called Trich, this common STD is caused by a parasite that spreads from a person to another through sexual contact. Most people infected with this parasite have no symptoms. For the approximately 30 percent that do experience symptoms, these may include itching, burning and/or soreness in the genital area and discharge from the penis or vagina that may be yellow, white or greenish; and, typically carries a foul odor.

Early signs of STD in Females

Do you know the early warning signs of an STD? Many women do not. After all, generally, STDs are not a welcoming topic in the world of women that can be discuss over coffee. It is not a simple topic to be discussed, such as the case of other female health issues, like pregnancy or menopause. Despite the fact that we now know that STDs can happen to anyone, and are nothing to be ashamed of; there is still a certain amount of stigma attached to these particular health issues in the minds of many. This can make it difficult for women to get the information they need to protect their sexual health.

The early signs of STDs in women vary, to some extent, according to the particular infection, as well as from one woman to another, even if they have contracted the same type of STD. A large proportion of women who are infected with an STD may have no symptoms at all. For instance, more than a quarter of women who have Chlamydia infections have no sign of the disease, and many female Gonorrhea sufferers have no signs of infection, especially in the early stages of infection. HPV typically has no symptoms in the early stages, and is usually only diagnosed through testing or when long term complications start becoming an issue.

All that being said, many women will experience early signs and symptoms that can indicate STD infection. The most common of these include:

  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning or pain while urinating
  • Discharge from the vagina, which could be white, yellow, blood-tinged and/or carry a foul odor. Discharge may be thin and watery or very thick or clumpy
  • Pain or discomfort during intercourse
  • Rash, bumps or irritation on or around the vagina
  • Painful blisters or ulcers on or around the vagina

Less common symptoms of STDs may include the following:

  • Changes in urination
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Frequent nausea
  • Fever
  • One or more painless ulcers, or sores, on or near the vagina
  • Sore throat, difficulty swallowing
  • Rectal bleeding, discharge or pain

Again, it is very important to realize that many women display no symptoms after becoming infected with an STD. For that reason, if you suspect you may have been exposed to an STD, do not wait for symptoms to appear before getting tested. Most STDs can be treated quite quickly and successfully, especially when caught in their early stages; but, they must first be detected for that to happen.

Importance of Getting Tested

While the above mentioned statistics can overview the major effect STDs have over one’s quality of health, people are still not very cautious when engaged in sexual activities. The rise in STDs needs a big commitment at all levels in order to maintain the damages done by such infections. Awareness remains of major importance, and the CDC stresses on the importance of being tested regularly.

According to the CDC, STD testing is critical for anyone that is sexually active especially if you fall in these categories:

  1. You are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years or are at a predisposition of being infected such as if you had many sex-partners or have a new partner. In that case, you are highly advised to be tested, yearly, for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Also, it would be a good idea to be tested for HIV.
  2. Pregnant women should be tested for Syphilis, HIV and Hepatitis B test in their early stages of the pregnancy. Those who are younger than 25 years and have had many sex partners should also get tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
  3. Adults and Adolescents that are older than 13 years of age should be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime.
  4. Men who have sex with men should be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea every year. In cases these MSM have many partners or random encounters, they are advised to get tested once every three months. Also, sexually active MSM should be tested for HIV that often.
  5. Those who have unsafe sex, or share needles with others should be tested for HIV once a year.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing is a topic that every sexually active person should understand thoroughly. Everyone has to keep in mind that it is essential to maintain sexual health, as much as it is important to keep an eye on one’s overall health and well-being. So, knowing when to get tested and what tests you should be having is simply a smart way for health management. But, many fallacies and misconceptions surround us. Down below are some frequently asked questions that may come to mind. View sample STD test results with lab variations, ranges and explanations.

Why STD Testing Is so Important?

Getting a test for sexually-transmitted diseases is important because it helps reduce the chance that any given person will unintentionally expose others to infection, but it can help in other areas, too. That's because having one STI actually increases the chance of contracting others, especially if that disease is untreated. A person who has HIV is much more likely to develop the HPV virus as well, even if the HIV is currently dormant in that person's system. Out of the diseases that do produce symptoms, many are relatively subtle. Patients must look for signs such as unusual smells, discharge with a strange color, a frequent need to urinate, or pain during sex.

How easy is it to get tested?

Getting tested for common STDs is very important for anyone who is sexually active, and it is very easy. All it takes is a few lab tests, which are done by examining samples of urine for some screening tests and blood samples for others. You can see your doctor for testing or if you prefer a more confidential approach, you can order your own tests online or over the phone through private testing services, like Health Testing Centers.

So how often should you be tested. The CDC recommends that most adults are screened for common STDs once a year. More frequent screening may be wise for people who have more than one sexual partner or are sexually involved with someone who does. They state that everyone, between the ages of 13 and 64, should be tested at least once for HIV. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing, perhaps every 3 to 6 months. The CDC also advises that all pregnant women should be screened for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia and gonorrhea to protect their own health and that of their unborn children.

STD testing is fast and convenient

Why Don't Adults Get STD Tested?

Older populations tend to be less informed about STIs than younger generations, yet they're still sexually active. They believe that they don't need to use protective methods like condoms as long as pregnancy isn't a concern. That causes these people to avoid getting tested. Unfortunately, this can lead to infections spreading quickly through populations. Doctors recommend regular STI testing for everyone, even after the discovery and treatment of a previous infection.

Since most of the educational campaigns about STI transmission have been targeted to younger adults and teens, older adults often miss the message. More adults are staying sexually active as they age, but only about 25 percent of them use condoms, with as few as 12 percent of men stating that they use protection every time they have sex. According to a 2010 study performed by Indiana University, people over the age of 45 have the lowest rate of condom use, in any population.

Fortunately, this problem can be solved with an increase in routine testing and a little awareness. While older adults may not have been bombarded with anti-STI messages as they were all grown up, they can still learn about these dangerous diseases through their doctors, or via the Internet. Medical professionals can also recommend routine testing for any patient who is sexually active; or, one may choose to seek their own testing, on his own.

About STD Testing

Getting screened for STDs is a very simple process. All it takes is a few lab tests to find out whether you have acquired an STD, which may, depending upon the particular tests done, involve giving a urine sample or a blood sample for testing. You can speak to your family doctor or your gynecologist to order tests, or if you prefer a more confidential approach, the same tests your doctor would use are available to you directly through online testing services, like Health Testing Centers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women who are sexually active get screened for common STDs regularly. For women under age 25, the agency recommends annual screening for common STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea; and, annual screening is also advisable for women over that age if they have a new sex partner or are having sex with more than one partner. They also advise that all pregnant women be screened for Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B and HIV; and, all females between the ages of 13 and 64 should be screened for HIV at least once.

Other times, when it is important to get tested, are when you have had unprotected sex with any new partner, whether it was sexual intercourse or oral sex; or, if you suspect that a former or current partner may be infected or have been exposed to an STD, whether or not protection was used. Finally, if you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above or any others that concern you, getting tested as soon as possible to rule out an STD is wise.

Sexual Health and Common Questions

Anytime the word sex comes up in a conversation, it can make some people uncomfortable and shy away from discussing this important awkward topic. But, in reality, human sexuality is as much a part of our physiology as are our physical and mental health.

What do we mean by sexual or reproductive health? Healthcare organizations use the term sexual health to mean “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality: not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), reproductive and sexual problems account for about 20 percent of poor health for women and 14 percent for men worldwide.

Sexual problems are defined as any physical or emotional issue that prevents a person, or a couple, from engaging in sexual activity; or, achieving a mutually satisfying intimate, sexual relationship. Sex therapists believe that what concerns people the most are very specific issues such as witnessing sexual abuse or facing painful intercourse.

What sexual problems can women experience?

Women with sexual dysfunction most often complain of low libido, or lack of desire for sex. Painful intercourse (dyspareunia) is another problem reported with about 80 percent of cases due to physiological effects, such as vaginal dryness, infection, or inflammation. One specific type of dyspareunia causes involuntary spasms of the vaginal muscles, making penetration painful or not possible. Some healthcare experts say in these cases, the root cause may be psychological trauma. In general, negative relationship factors, stress and depression can be underlying causes but so too can physical causes, including thyroid disorders or a decline in hormone levels before, during and after menopause.

What sexual problems do men tend to experience most?

In about 75 percent of men reporting sexual problems, premature ejaculation is the most common complaint. Clinically, premature ejaculation means the release of sperm either before actual intercourse takes place or very quickly after it starts. Most men will experience this at least once in their lifetime; but, when the condition becomes chronic, there is usually an underlying cause including: a highly sensitive nervous system, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or an infection in the prostate gland known as prostatitis. Treatments for chronic premature ejaculation might include antidepressant medication, use of a condom, or a prescription cream that helps reducing sensation.

How to Diagnose Burning Urination?

Burning urination is when you feel a burning sensation during urination. This feeling will then be present when your urine passes from the body and/or inside the body, in areas like the bladder or prostate gland. Many conditions can cause this feeling, including urinary tract infections, inflammatory conditions, several sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and some kidney problems, for example. So how to diagnose burning urination? You will probably need the help of a health care professional to properly diagnose the causes, but here is what you need to know about that process.

First, your Symptoms Assessment

This is the first step to diagnosing burning urination, since this problem can be caused by a rather long list of conditions. Knowing what other symptoms may also be causative can help narrow that list. Symptoms that typically accompany burning or painful urination include:

  • Urine that is bloody, cloudy or has an unusual and/or foul odor
  • Urination issues, such as frequent urination, passing small amounts of urine, involuntary urine leakage, very concentrated (dark yellow) urine, or urges to urinate when your bladder is empty
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Bumps or rashes on or around the genitals
  • Itching or inflammation (swelling) on or around the genitals
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Pain in the lower back or side
  • Prostate pain

Make a note of any symptoms you are experiencing, or any others that are not listed above. Note how long and how often you have had them; and, whether they appeared suddenly or gradually. These details can help diagnosing burning urination.

Other details that may be important to your diagnosis include health conditions you may have, such as diabetes, allergies or immune system disorders. Any medication or supplements you take may play a role in this unwanted feeling. You may also be asked for a sexual history to determine whether STDs may be the root cause of your burning urination problem. If you are female, a pregnancy test may be necessary, as this can be a possible reason.

You will also, most likely, be asked about other factors that may cause irritation or inflammation in the urinary tract and/or genitals. These may include using any new soaps or personal care products, being engaged in activities like bicycle or horseback riding, or whether you have had any recent medical procedure or treatment that might have contributed to your symptoms.

Second, Get Tested: Testing Commonly Used to Help Diagnose Burning Urination

Using clues provided by your symptom’s assessment, your healthcare professional may recommend a variety of tests that can help diagnose the cause/causes of burning urination. The most common of these are -

Urinalysis - This test analyzes a sample of your urine. It looks for white blood cells, red blood cells, proteins and abnormal chemicals in the sample, among other indicators, to screen for inflammation in the urinary tract.

Urine Culture - This lab test looks for signs of infection in a urine sample; and, helps identify the specific bacteria causing that infection. It can also help your healthcare professional determine which antibiotics are best to use in treating bacterial infections.

Swab Tests - Under certain circumstances, healthcare professionals may use a swab to take a sample, which will be sent to a lab to check for signs of infection. For example, in females with burning urination, swab samples may be taken from the vagina or urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body), or men in whom burning urination is accompanied by discharge from the penis may have swab samples of that fluid sent to the lab to aid diagnosis.

STD Screening Tests - STDs are a common cause of burning urination. For that reason, testing for these diseases is often recommended in sexually active people who experience this problem. This may include urine tests to check for signs of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis; as well as blood tests to look for other STDs that can cause burning urination, such as herpes or syphilis. HIV testing may also be recommended in some cases, since this viral infection can weaken the immune system, enabling frequent urinary tract infections or other opportunistic infections that can lead to burning urination.

Yeast Infection Tests - Vaginal yeast infections are another common cause of burning urination. Tests that are often used to detect these infections include urine tests, which look for yeast in a urine sample, and swab tests that look for signs of yeast overgrowth in vaginal fluids.

Kidney Function Tests - If your burning urination has been going on for a long time and/or is accompanied by symptoms like back pain, fever and chills, bloody urine or changes in normal urination habits, your healthcare professional may recommend some tests to determine how well your kidneys are functioning. Common tests for this purpose include -

  • Basic Metabolic Panel: Checks levels of glucose, calcium, chloride, carbon dioxide, potassium and sodium in a blood sample, as well as BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine, providing important indicators of kidney health and function.
  • BUN/Creatinine Ratio: Uses a blood sample to measure levels of these waste products in the body to evaluate kidney function.
  • Kidney Function Panel: Measures levels of electrolytes, proteins, minerals, waste products and sugar in a blood sample to assess kidney function.

Prostate Testing - Prostate tests may be recommended for men with burning urination. These typically include blood tests to check for signs of prostate cancer, like the PSA tests, and in some cases, medical imaging.

Other testing that may be done include examinations of the bladder and other components of the urinary tract with ultrasound or other medical imaging techniques, and neurological tests to look for nerve damage that can cause painful or burning urination.

In most cases, burning or painful urination can be treated successfully, reducing or eliminating your discomfort. Typically, this involves treating the underlying causes, which most often means medications, such as antibiotics for urinary tract infections and some STDs, antiviral medications for herpes or HIV, or antifungal treatment for yeast infections, for instance. Of course, you will need medical help and an accurate diagnosis to get the right treatment, so working with your healthcare provider is essential.

What causes Vaginal Burning and is it contagious?

Vaginal burning is a very common issue among women and can stem from several causes. The term is used to describe a burning or stinging sensation in or around the vagina, that may be felt continuously or while urinating. Many causes of this problem are minor conditions that, while uncomfortable and annoying, are not serious or contagious. However, sometimes, vaginal burning can stem from conditions that are more concerning and/or can be passed on to others, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other types of infections. Here we’ll investigate the details of the more common causes of this problem.

Vaginal Burning: Non-Contagious Causes

Non-contagious causes of vaginal burning range from simple irritations to various types of infections. Among the most common of these are:

Noninfectious Vaginitis – Also commonly called contact dermatitis or simply skin irritation, this occurs when the skin in or around the vagina becomes inflamed, raw and/or itchy as a reaction to exposure to an irritant. Chemicals in products, such as tampons, menstrual pads, douches, deodorants, soaps and body washes are common causes. Underwear made from synthetic materials has also been found to spur irritation. Friction, associated with tight clothing or use of rough toilet tissue is a known irritant, as well as prolonged moisture in the vaginal area due to urine leakage or sweat.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) – A UTI is an infection, caused by bacteria, that can affect several different parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys and urethra. This can cause vaginal burning when urinating, as well as other symptoms, including frequent urges to urinate, pain during urination, blood in the urine, strong-smelling or cloudy urine, abdominal pain and a general feeling of being unwell or tired.

Bacterial vaginosis – This condition occurs when the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina is disturbed, allowing unhealthy bacteria to take hold. This can lead to inflammation in and around the vagina, causing vaginal burning. Other symptoms of this infection include white or gray vaginal discharge, itching, and a strong fishy odor that is especially noticeable after sex.

Yeast infection – Also commonly called candidiasis or thrush, this type of infection is cause by an overgrowth of yeast, which is naturally present in the vagina. Too much yeast can cause vaginal burning and other symptoms, including itching, soreness, white or yellow clumpy vaginal discharge and pain while urinating or during sex.

Menopause – The very sensitive skin of the vaginal area can become thinner and drier as a woman goes through the change of life. This can cause the area to become irritated much more easily, leading to vaginal burning, especially during and after sex.

Vaginal Burning: STDs/Contagious Causes

woman bent over from vaginal burn Content provider: Creative Commons

Vaginal burning can also be a symptom of a variety of different sexually transmitted diseases. Among the STDs most commonly associated with vaginal burning are:

Trichomoniasis – Also commonly called trich, this infectious disease is caused by a parasite that passes from one person to another during sex. It is the most common STD in the U.S., and while many people have no symptoms with trichomoniasis, some women will experience vaginal burning, along with other symptoms, such as itching, redness and/or soreness in and around the vagina, discomfort, burning or pain during urination, and vaginal discharge that may be white, yellow or green and carry a strong fishy odor.

Chlamydia – This is a very common bacterial infection that is transmitted to others during sex. Many people have no symptoms with this STD, but among those that do, vaginal burning is common. Other symptoms that may come along with chlamydia infection include increased vaginal discharge, pain during urination and/or during sex, and bleeding during sex and/or between menstrual periods.

Gonorrhea – This is a bacterial infection as well, which occurs when a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae infects mucous membranes in areas that can include the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. This bacterium typically enters the body through sexual contact with an infected partner. Women who acquire this STD often show no symptoms, but among those who do see symptoms, vaginal burning is among the most frequent of them, along with painful urination, increased vaginal discharge and bleeding between menstrual periods.

Genital herpes – A very common viral STD, genital herpes is caused by a virus that is transmitted from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact, most often during sex. Vaginal burning is a common symptom of genital herpes, as are itching or tingling in or near the vagina, vaginal pain, painful urination, flu-like symptoms, swollen glands and unusual vaginal discharge.

What to Do About Vaginal Burning

Vaginal burning is a very common issue, one that most women will experience at least once in their lifetimes. Most often, it is caused by the minor problems on the list above; but, since it is a common symptom of STDs, UTIs and other potentially serious problems, it is wise to rule out these issues before making any assumptions.

Getting tested for common STDs is wise if you are a sexually active woman experiencing vaginal burning. It is a simple matter of getting some quick lab tests to check your blood and/or urine for signs of infection. You can get these tests through your doctor or have them done more confidentially and economically by purchasing them online. You should be getting tested regularly anyway to protect your sexual health, since STDs often produce few telltale signs. An STD screening is generally recommended once a year for sexually active individuals.

If STD tests are negative, seeing your doctor about vaginal burning is your best next step. Of course, if those tests come back positive, seeing your doctor immediately for treatment is essential to protecting your health and that of any sexual partners.

What is causing my vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is fluid that is expelled from the opening of the vagina. Some discharge from the vagina is normal, as fluid produced by glands within the vagina and cervix works to flush out bacteria, dead cells and other debris to help keep the vagina clean and healthy. However, certain changes in vaginal discharge can be a sign of trouble, indicating various types of infections, health conditions or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), for example. Here we'll investigate the details of vaginal discharge - what is normal and what isn't - and the potential causes of abnormal or excessive discharge.

About Normal Vaginal Discharge

Normal vaginal discharge typically ranges from thin and clear to thicker and milky white in color. It generally changes in color and consistency within that range throughout the menstrual cycle. The amount of discharge normally present varies from one woman to another, and most women see an increase in discharge during ovulation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Normal vaginal discharge should not have an unpleasant odor, and most women should see consistent patterns of changes in the look, smell and amount of discharge each month as they move through the menstrual cycle.

About Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Abnormal vaginal discharge means discharge that is unusual for you - thicker, thinner, different in color, amount or smell than you are used to seeing. Changes that may warrant concern include discharge that is yellow, green or brown in color, discharge that has a lumpy consistency, or any discharge that has an unusual or foul odor. Any such changes, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms - vaginal itching or burning, for instance, or abdominal pain - can indicate infection or other health issues.

What Can Cause Abnormal Discharge?

Abnormal vaginal discharge is caused by changes in the balance of normal bacteria in the vaginal canal, which in turn, causes changes in the amount, color, odor and/or texture of vaginal fluids. There are a variety of conditions, infections and other issues that can upset that natural balance, including:

1- Certain medications - Medications that can contribute to changes in vaginal discharge include birth control pills, antibiotic and steroids.

2- Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause - Changes in hormonal balance, such as those that come with pregnancy or the onset of menopause, can affect the amount and consistency of discharge.

3- Vaginitis - This condition is simple irritation in or around the vagina and can change the amount and appearance of discharge.

4- Bacterial Vaginosis - A very common bacterial infection, this condition can cause an increase in vaginal discharge and often presents with discharge that is white, gray or yellow and carries a strong fishy or foul odor.

5- Trichomoniasis - This infection is caused by a parasite, called a protozoan, is usually transmitted via sexual contact. Women who have contracted this infection may see an increased amount of vaginal discharge, which may be yellow or green in color and have a foul odor. Often, these changes are accompanied by pain, inflammation and itching in and around the vaginal area.

6- Yeast Infection - This is a fungal infection, which occurs when yeast, naturally present in small amounts in the vagina, grows out of control, disturbing the bacterial balance. This typically causes a white, clumpy type of discharge that resembles cottage cheese, along well as vaginal itching and burning.

7- Gonorrhea - A sexually transmitted disease, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can cause an increase in discharge from the vagina, which may be green, yellow, cloudy or tinged with blood.

8- Chlamydia - Another sexually transmitted bacterial infection, chlamydia can lead to changes in vaginal discharge, like those seen with gonorrhea; green, yellow, cloudy or bloody discharge.

9- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or Cervical Cancer - HPV is a virus that is transmitted through sexual contact and can lead to the development of cervical cancer. Cancer of the cervix can cause symptoms that include blood-tinged, brown or watery discharge from the vagina, often with a foul or unusual odor.

10- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - An infection that develops in a woman's reproductive organs, PID can be the result of another untreated infection or STD that has spread through the reproductive system, and often causes heavy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

What to Do If You Notice Changes

If you have noticed changes in your normal pattern of vaginal discharge, getting checked out by your gynecologist is wise. This is especially true if those changes persist throughout your menstrual cycle, include discharge that is frothy or lumpy, and/or come along with symptoms like fever, flu-like symptoms, pain, burning or itching, rash, redness, swelling or sores in the vaginal area, or an unusual odor, particularly if it is fishy or foul. Getting tested for common STDs is also a very good idea, and will probably be suggested by your doctor, since many can cause these types of abnormal discharge and other symptoms.

However, it is important to note that if you suspect you may have been exposed to an STD, you should not wait to see abnormal vaginal discharge or other symptoms before getting tested. Women often carry these infections with no symptoms at all, and left untreated, they can cause PID and other serious complications. For that reason, it is recommended that women who are sexually active be tested regularly, whether they experience any symptoms, to ensure that STDs are caught and treated early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine screening for common STDs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, for most women once a year, especially in women under age 25. All pregnant women should be screened as well, to ensure against the harm that untreated STDs can cause in mother and child. The agency also suggests that all adults are tested for HIV at least once before age 64.

Most infections and health issues that can cause abnormal vaginal discharge can be easily treated with proper medications. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and PID, among others. Antifungal medications can clear up yeast infections, and there are medications that can eliminate infections caused by parasites, like trichomoniasis.

What is causing my testicular pain?

Testicular pain or discomfort is an issue that can stem from many causes. These range from bacterial or viral infections, physical injuries and other medical conditions. Some of these problems may be quite serious, requiring urgent medical attention, while others may be fairly minor. However, it can be tough to know what you’re dealing with when it comes to these very sensitive male sex organs, so here, we’ll outline some of the more common causes of testicular pain and similar symptoms.

1. Orchitis – Among the most common causes of testicular pain, orchitis is painful inflammation in one or both testicles. It is most commonly caused by bacterial infections. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, among others, are often the infections at the root of this condition. It can also be caused by viral infections, such as mumps, for example. Symptoms of orchitis can include swelling in one or both testicles, testicular pain that can range from mild to severe, tenderness in the testicles, blood in the semen and, in some cases, fever, nausea and vomiting.

2. Epididymitis – This condition is inflammation in the epididymis, which is a coiled tube, located in the back of each testicle, that stores sperm. The most common cause of epididymitis is bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted diseases, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, or infections caused by coliforms, which are bacteria found in the intestines. Less commonly, mumps and certain other viral infections can be the case of this condition. Symptoms of epididymitis may include swelling and redness in the testicles, pain, ranging from mild to severe, especially during ejaculation, blood in the semen, frequent urination, and in some cases, fever and/or chills.

3. Trauma – Injuries caused by trauma, such as a kick or blow to the testicles, can cause significant testicular pain. In most cases, that pain is short-lived, but in others, significant injury can be a factor. Among the more common problem that can happen due to trauma is a hematocele, which is when blood collects between layers or the protective sac that surrounds the testicles, causing swelling and pain. Another common injury that can be caused by trauma to the testicles is testicular rupture, which is a tear in the protective membrane that surrounds the testicles – a condition that causes lingering and severe testicular pain and requires immediate surgical treatment.

4. Testicular torsion – This is a condition that occurs when a testicle rotates within the scrotum, twisting the spermatic cord, which supplies the scrotum with blood. This reduces blood flow, leading to severe testicular pain and swelling of the scrotum. Other symptoms that may occur with this condition include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, painful urination, fever and a testicle that has changed from its normal position, sitting higher or at a different angle. This condition requires immediate medical attention, and often, emergency surgery.

5. Varicocele – This condition occurs when veins within the scrotum become enlarged, rather like varicose veins commonly seen in the legs. This happens when valves in these veins fail, weakening their ability to circulate blood as efficiently as they should. The result is blood build up in those veins, causing them to increase in size. This leads to testicular pain, which may be mild to severe, and generally worsens as the day goes on, and lessens with rest.

6. Spermatocele – This is a cyst that can develop in the epididymis (tube that carries and stores sperm), generally behind or above the testicle. These cysts often contain dead sperm cells and vary in size. While smaller cysts generally cause no symptoms, larger ones can lead to mild to moderate testicular pain.

7. Hydrocele – This is a condition in which fluid builds up around the testicle. It can be caused by trauma to the scrotum or surgeries, like hernia repair. Symptoms of hydrocele include testicular pain and swelling.

8. Referred pain – This is a condition that occurs when pain from elsewhere, usually the abdomen or groin area, is felt in the testicles. This commonly happens with problems like kidney stones, which often produce referred pain in the left testicle, or hernias, which can cause pain to be felt in one or both testicles. The most common symptom of this condition is testicular pain that persists for more than a week without other obvious symptoms, like swelling or fever, for instance.

9. Testicular cancer – While many men who develop cancerous tumors in the testicles have no obvious symptoms of the disease, some will experience testicular pain, which can range from minor discomfort to severe pain. Other symptoms that may present with this form of cancer include a feeling of heaviness in the testicles, fluid buildup and swelling in the scrotum, pain in the abdomen or lower back, and in some cases, tenderness or enlargement in the chest/breasts.

diagram of areas where testicular pain may reside By OpenStax College [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Do If You Have Testicular Pain

If you are experiencing pain in the testicles, seeing your doctor is your safest course of action – particularly if that pain is severe, comes on suddenly, has persisted after a blow to the groin, and/or comes with other symptoms. Your doctor will be able to assess your symptoms to find the cause and treat your pain. This typically involves a physical examination to check for swelling, lumps, fluid buildup and other symptoms. It may include medical imaging, and lab tests, including blood and urine tests to screen for STDs and other bacterial and/or viral infections that may be related to your testicular symptoms.

Treatment will depend upon the specific cause of your symptoms. Bacterial STDs, like gonorrhea or chlamydia, or other types of bacterial infections can generally be cleared up with antibiotics. Viral infections can also be treated with medications. Other pain causing conditions associated with blood or fluid buildup may simply require time, rest and perhaps some pain medication, while hernias, ruptures, testicular torsions or cancers may require surgery. The most important thing is that these symptoms are not ignored. While testicular pain is often due to minor problems, it can be a sign of serious ones that threaten your fertility – and, in rare cases, your life.

What is prostatitis and what are its symptoms?

A small organ located at the base of the bladder, the prostate gland is wrapped around the urethra, which empties the bladder through the penis. The back portion of the gland can be felt during a rectal examination. In general terms, prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland. There are four different types:

Acute bacterial prostatitis – an infection caused by bacteria similar to that which causes bladder infections; can spread from the blood stream into the prostate gland with symptoms of fever, chills, nausea and a general ill feeling.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis – an ongoing infection that may cause no symptoms.

Chronic prostatitis without infection – a condition in which there is recurring pain without an infection present; may result in painful urination, premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction. Causes are not always clear.

Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis – an inflamed prostate with no symptoms. What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Also referred to as impotence, ED means the male cannot obtain or sustain an erection sufficient for intercourse to occur. Once considered an emotional problem, healthcare providers today realize ED is often caused by other conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction and the early onset of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol abuse, smoking and depression also play a part.

What are the benefits of sex?

Some studies show that a regular sex life can help keep you fit, similar to any aerobic exercise, make you look younger, and boost your hormone levels, which helps with sex drive and fertility. In particular, sexual activity raises the level of DHEA, a not so well-known hormone that has several benefits, ranging from increasing your energy levels, to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There is even some evidence that a healthy sex life can result in the person living longer. People who enjoy an intimate relationship tend to be healthier than those who are lonely and isolated.

What are some of the most common sexual problems between men and women and the causes? For men, it’s often prostate problems, decreases in blood supply to the penis from heart disease or diabetes, nerve damage or a reduction in the male hormone testosterone that can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).

Women complain of decreased libido, lack of sex drive, painful intercourse (dyspareunia), vaginal dryness or chronic health problems that prevent a normal sex life. Drug abuse or addictive behaviors can affect sexual function, including excessive use of alcohol, nicotine, narcotics and even some prescription drugs.

What medications can cause sex problems?

Medications for high blood pressure, allergies and certain anti-depressants can sometimes interfere with normal sex drives and performance, in both men and women. Other prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can affect sexual health are:

  • Birth control pills – can reduce libido due to hormone ingredients.
  • Prozac and Valium – an anti-depressant and tranquilizer which can affect the sex drive of both men and women.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Certain Parkinson’s medications and cancer drugs
  • Non-steroid anti-inflammatory OTC drugs like ibuprofen
  • Heartburn drugs

Can having sex give you a headache?

The answer is yes, with an actual name for this uncommon medical condition: coital cephalalgia. It tends to affect more men than women, despite the fact that women get more headaches in general. There is no clear answer as to what could be causing this phenomenon; but, the possibilities include sudden changes in blood flow or a drop in blood pressure following sexual intercourse. It could also be due to a release of adrenaline during sexual activity; or even possibly an undiagnosed health problem.

What’s considered a “normal” sex drive?

Normal is a relative term and there are few statistics that clearly show long-term sexual activity among adults. But there are research studies among married couples in America that indicate the “average” married couple to have sex once or twice a week, excluding times of illness, pregnancy, travel and major stressors.

It’s also normal for your sex drive to diminish with age, with some studies showing up to half of long-term married couples not having sex after the age of 65. However, frequency of sex can serve as an indicator of healthy marriages.

What is “safe sex”?

Safe sex dramatically reduces STD risk

Though AIDS is no longer front-page news, there are still plenty of solid reasons to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you are sexually active, practice safe sex by wearing condoms or using birth control, being tested for STDs and asking your partner to do the same.

STD testing is readily available online with the help of testing specialists like Health Testing Centers, and at most healthcare clinics. Keep in mind that symptoms of an STD don’t always present right away, so be alert and consider undergoing several different tests to cover a variety of possibilities.

What is the difference between HPV and HIV?

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is actually a group of viruses that can affect different parts of your body, including the skin (cold sores) and genital areas. Some of the viruses can cause cervical cancer and warts, passed through sexual contact.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an infection that can develop into AIDS. It attacks the infection-fighting cells of the immune system; and, over time can destroy it. The most common means of transmission is through unprotected sexual contact.

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

Assuming you are healthy and the pregnancy is problem-free, health experts say there is no reason you can’t have sex during the nine months you are pregnant. Having sex does not cause miscarriages, as some think, nor does it bring on early labor. The cervix is designed to block entry to the womb so the developing fetus is not harmed by the act of intercourse. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have special questions about safety issues, and comfort during sex.

How does your overall health affect your sexual health?

Taking care of yourself physically and mentally ranges from getting plenty of rest to staying fit to watching your weight. It is a big step towards achieving a satisfying level of good sexual health. Did you know, for example, that your cholesterol levels can affect your sex life? Here’s how:

If you’re on cholesterol lowering drugs, they can affect your libido, along with other prescription drugs. High cholesterol levels can affect both sexes. For men, it can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). For women, it can affect the ability to become aroused. Extra weight raises your cholesterol count, and can cause feelings of low self-esteem (especially when clothes come off), as well as painful or uncomfortable sex. High cholesterol levels plus high blood pressure can mean higher risks of heart disease and stroke. This surely is not exactly a recipe for a healthy sex life.

Your greatest sex organ is your mind, so use it to get and stay healthy through practicing safe sex, getting tested for both STDs and cholesterol levels, as well as keeping your weight down. Eat healthy and follow an exercise routine to keep the blood flowing properly to all the organs, including those body parts most private and tender.

What Is the Most Common Form of STD Among Older Adults?

Many healthcare professionals say chlamydia rates have doubled for people over the age of 50, in the past decade. Recognized since 1970, this bacterial infection has several variants (it can cause eye infections in newborns, for instance); but, in STD form, it is considered the most common STD in the industrialized world. Because many people have chlamydia without symptoms, the rates could be even higher than proclaimed since symptom-free patients seldom get tested.

Those who do experience symptoms may report the following:

In women – genital discharge, burning upon urination, pelvic pain and bleeding between periods or after intercourse.

In men – penis discharge ranging from clear to yellow, painful urination, irritation in or around the urethra and redness at the tip of the penis.

Treatment involves a course of antibiotics. It is highly successful in eliminating the infection. Using condoms during sex helps prevents transmission. Less common yet still preventable STDs are genital warts, yeast infections, herpes and hepatitis A, B, or C, as well as HIV infection and AIDS.

What’s Behind the Rise in STD’s Among Seniors?

In 2010, a study on sexual health from Indiana University revealed a surprising result: the lowest rate of condom use was among people aged 45 and up. The study also found that, in general, healthcare providers tend to shy away from discussing sexual health and safe sex practices with older patients. Furthermore, health education awareness campaigns are directed toward teens and young adults, minimizing the problem for the older generation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 885 cases of syphilis in the 45- to-64 age range in 2000. By 2010, the rates had risen to more than 2500. Because the number of older Americans has increased, HIV rates have nearly doubled along with the aging population. Little public health research has been conducted on the topic of STDs among seniors; so, at this point all that’s known for certain is that condoms can prevent HIV.

Syphilis can be managed with medication

About three million adults in the U.S. are infected with the hepatitis C virus; and, most of them are baby boomers. Once infected with hepatitis C, about eight in 10 people remain infected for life. The virus can cause liver damage, over time; and, even lead to liver cancer. Up to 75 percent of those with the virus don’t know they have it. Therefore, the CDC recommends that anyone born from 1945 – 1965 should have a blood test for hepatitis C. Besides lack of safe sex practices, little research and minimal awareness about STDs among the older population, other reasons leading to more STD cases include:

  • A dramatic increase in the use of Erectile Dysfunction (ED) drugs since they were introduced in 1998. A Harvard Medical School study showed about twice the risk of STDs among men who took the drugs as opposed to men who didn’t.
  • People are living longer; divorce rates are high and being a part of the dating loop is more common today than ever. Among baby boomers, in particular, staying sexually active is paramount to staying “young.”
  • Postmenopausal changes in women, including decreased lubrication, can make females more vulnerable to infection. In the older population, no one worries about pregnancy, which may account for the lower rates of condom use. Subtle symptoms that could be signs of an STD are sometimes mistaken for “normal” aches and pains associated with aging. There are still stigmas associated with discussing sex, especially among older generations. As a result, clinicians are saying it’s now time that seniors took responsibility of safe sex practices as well as their own sexual health.

So What Is The Best Way To Maintain A Safe, Healthy Sex Life As We Age?

Healthcare professionals advise that any sexually active adult, regardless of age, should consider the following:

1-Learn all you can about STDs, either through online research, books, seminars or open discussions with friends and colleagues.

2- If you live in a retirement home where sexual activity takes place, suggest having a safe sex counselor visit to provide an educational seminar on safe sex practices and the proper use of condoms. (All condoms should be FDA approved). Find out if condoms are available onsite, as they are on many college campuses. In Baltimore, MD, a portion of the Department of Aging funds is devoted to health education that promotes safe senior sex and testing at various senior citizen centers.

3- A condom should be used at every sexual contact when the STD status of the person is unknown. This includes oral, anal and genital contact. Don’t use latex condoms with oil-based lubricants as they have a higher probability to getting ripped. Plastic or polyurethane ones are fine. Advocate to public health campaigns on safe sex for older populations, especially for those people who live independently and won’t be reached through retirement and assisted living centers.

4- Have a frank discussion with your friends, both genders, on the topic of sex and its repercussions, especially if you know they are dating or plan on entering a new relationship. Many older adults state that it’s difficult to raise the subject of sex with their healthcare providers. These normally tend to not ask; and the patients don’t normally volunteer. If you are sexually active and have any symptoms that could relate to an STD, see your healthcare provider or get tested right away and be tested so that treatment can begin.

5-Finally, don’t let the “youngsters” get ahead of you in practicing safe sex. Recent studies show that among college-age Americans, condoms are used in nearly half of all sexual encounters, but only in about six percent of encounters for those 61 and older. As long as an active sex life is important to older adults and will continue, that statistic needs to change.

Which STD do I need to get tested for?

The answer depends largely on your personal sexual behavior and existing risk factors. So, the answer is somehow personalized. That being said, most doctors recommend that a person gets tested for the most common STDs, as advised by the CDC. These are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, Herpes (Types 1 and 2), Syphilis, and Trichomoniasis. Depending upon your personal circumstances/experiences, getting screened for all of these may not be necessary; or, there may even be other tests that you should have, such as less common STDs like hepatitis A, B, and/or C, or Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV).

STD Treatment and Counseling through Health Testing Centers: What do I Need to Know?

When ordering an STD package, or individual test from Health Testing Centers, such as Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics orders only, that handles chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or HSV type 2, you will be getting way more than just getting tested. A physician’s consultation as well as a prescribed treatment is included in the package, if you get a positive result. This applies for any of the 4 mentioned STD's where a phone or video consultation, by one of our third party physicians, will be provided to you at no additional cost. The physician from PWN Health will contact you within 4 to 24 hours after receiving your test result. At the end of the consultation, the physician may prescribe the necessary medication to get you treated. It is up to the sole discretion of the physician to provide any medical treatment based on test results and any medical information they received during the consultation. However, the cost of the prescription is not part of the fee you are paying. We have test centers all over the USA.

When should STD tests be done?

Perhaps, the most important thing to realize when you are thinking to get tested for STDs is that you should not wait for symptoms to appear. That's because a number of sexually transmitted infections can be present in your body without presenting any symptoms at all. Others may produce non-specific symptoms that mimic those of minor ailments, like a common cold or flu. So, sometimes, feeling healthy and at your best, does not mean that you do not have any STD. Better be safe than sorry.

As explained above, if you are having or had unprotected sex, have become aware that a partner may have an STD, or have symptoms that could be causing any concern; then, it is recommended that you get tested 2 to 3 weeks after the sexual encounter or exposure. This would be called an initial testing; then, you should be screened again after 3 months. Early testing can detect infections that develop fairly quickly, like Chlamydia and gonorrhea, for instance, while late testing is important for STDs that develop more slowly, such as HIV. Other important times to be tested are mentioned above.

Lastly, every individual who is sexually active should have a complete STD screening done periodically. But, how often you should be screened depends upon your personal risk factors; so, working out an appropriate testing schedule for your needs is best done by discussing those factors with a healthcare and/or medical testing professional.

Do they test for STDs during a Pap smear?

Many are under the impression that their health care giver tests for STDs during Pap smear appointments. However, the purpose of these exams is to look for changes that indicate a possible risk for developing cervical cancer. Since many cases of cervical cancer can be linked to Human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, doctors will often look for physical signs of this virus while performing their examination. Comprehensive STD screening tests reveal a variety of common STDs that sexually active individuals should be screened for. These are not typically done at the Pap smear appointments, and most STDS will not even show on a standard Pap test.

It is also important for the person who understands the importance of their sexual health to know that STD screening is not a standard practice during annual pelvic exams or yearly physical exams. Typically, patients will not be screened for STDs unless they request it.

What STD will show up in a blood test?

Blood tests can be used to test STDs for a number of infection types. STDs that show up in a blood test include: HIV, Syphilis, Herpes (Types 1 and 2), Hepatitis A, B, and C, and HTLV.

From another angle, urine tests are typically used to detect the following STDs: Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis.

Some doctors may also use swabs testing; however, this practice is less common now that more accurate blood and urine tests have become available.

What indicators are looked for in an STD test?

Whether testing is done via blood or urine samples, the processing lab will look for key indicators of an STD infection. For bacterial infections, such as Gonorrhea, Syphilis or Chlamydia, those indicators would be finding bacteria in urine samples. When performing blood tests, technicians would look for antibodies that the body produces in order to fight bacteria associated with the given infection. In cases of viral STDs, such as HIV, HTLV, HPV, hepatitis or herpes, indicators would be the antibodies that the immune system produces in order to attack the invading virus. Finally, Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by parasites. This means that its indicator would be found in the urine of infected individuals.

What do I do if I test positive for an STD?

Now that we've gone over some basics on how to test infections, here is an important note on what to do if your test yields a positive result. If you are found to be infected with one or more STDs, your first step, on the day those test results come in, is to seek treatment. This is essential to minimizing the short-term effects of STDs and avoiding more serious potential long-term effects, such as infertility, cancer, organ damage and blindness, to name just a few. Your second step is to inform any past or current sexual partners that may also be infected, so that they too can seek treatment. Additionally, it is important to abstain from all sexual activity until your treatment is complete to avoid spreading the infection to your partner.

STD Testing vs. STI Testing: What’s the difference?

Prior to the ‘90’s, sexually transmitted diseases were commonly referred to as “VD’s” or venereal diseases. The term “STD” was used increasingly as the infection rates for HIV/ AIDS proliferated. More recently, the term STI or sexually transmitted infection has been used rather than STD. The reason for this is that many people are infected but may not have had the infection turn into a disease. Being infected does not mean you feel sick or start to show signs of a disease. However, you may still in fact be infected, contagious and carrying the potential of a disease. By using the term STD or testing for disease, we may be under testing at risk patient populations. To only be testing those who show symptoms of a disease is not safe.

At Health Testing Centers, we aim to help our patients test for any infection that may lead to a disease. Some infections are also transmitted by non-sexual contact as well. For example, some forms of herpes or hepatitis may be considered an STD; but, are not actually communicated by sexual activity. At Health Testing Centers, when we do STD Testing, we think of it as the same thing as STI Testing.

There are two kinds of infections that are typically transmitted sexually: Bacterial and Viral. Bacterial STI examples include: Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. Viral STI examples include: HIV, Herpes, and Hepatitis.

STD Dating Apps: a solution for people who have STD’s

Are you living with a life-long STD (sexually transmitted disease)? If so, you should know that you are not alone. Far from it, in fact. STD cases are on the rise. That being said, if you are single, your situation does not necessarily mean that you have to stay that way for life. Many people with STDs are still active in the dating scene, often with the aid of STD dating apps that connect them with other adults who are in the same boat. While these kinds of apps do provide opportunities for people who have tested positive to remain socially active, these apps should be approached with caution and in some cases avoided. Here are five of the top STD dating apps and online communities available today.

Recommended STD Dating Apps

MPWH: stands for “Meet People with Herpes,” and is part of an online platform, including a traditional website, as well as blogs and forums. It that was launched in 2001. It connects users to an established community created for individuals living with genital and/or oral herpes. They are considered as the number one and pioneer Herpes dating community. The app offers people, diagnosed with this life-long STD, opportunities to meet other single adults for dating, romance, friendship and/or support in a secure and private environment. Askmen.com called it one of the top three dating apps for people with STDs.

The community includes advice, forums, member blogs as well as dating apps for either iPhone or Android. Similar to mainstream dating apps, users can meet up anonymously with other members by searching for people with similar interests and 'swiping' through profiles to find their perfect match. The app is free and they offer a limited free membership which allows you to create a profile that is visible to paid members. All members are also able to send "winks" for free. These are quick onliners that let other members know that you are interested. For more access to the community, members must upgrade to the Gold option, which requires a monthly fee.

Only Gold members, in good standing, can actually initiate contact with people they would like to date. The price for a Gold membership varies between $16.00 and $30.00 per month, depending on the length of the membership purchased. You can cancel your membership and delete your profile although MPWH will hold your information for 2 years after which it is permanently deleted from their database. This is a great feature; and, if you are considering signing up for any kind of dating app, be sure that deleting your information is an option. MPWH is an active community where people with Herpes can find friends and maybe even dates and is one of the few we would recommend.

PositiveSingles: This online dating app is designed for people diagnosed with any short or long-term STD. It is user-friendly, private and extremely interactive, and offers a supportive community for STD positive individuals. The app also features a live counselor to answer questions about STDs and other topics, as well as a dating advisor to assist users as they explore the community and make connections. Like MPWH, the PositiveSingles app is part of a larger platform that includes a traditional website, accessible via PC or mobile devices.

Positivesingles is owned by Successful Match who has ties to one of the oldest online STD dating platform sites; pozmatch.com which proudly states it has been in operation since 1998. They also operate a number of other dating apps and sites including the popular herpesforum.net for those who prefer to go old school with online dating.

PositiveSingles is not without controversy. In 2014, it was accused of sharing participants' information with their other dating sites. The judge ruled that although PositiveSingles had stated that they would be sharing information in their Terms and Conditions/Privacy Policy, the information was not displayed prominently enough to participants. They seem to have learned their lesson because they are now very open about how information is used and provide clear contact information for both the company and their legal team.

Based on the fact that they are now more open about data privacy, we would give PositiveSingles high marks among the STD dating apps available; but, recommend that you read the Terms and Conditions of any online app carefully to make sure you are comfortable with sharing information with them. PositiveSingles is available on both the Apple App store and Google Play.

Popular STD Dating Apps to Avoid

Hzone: This app is specifically designed for HIV positive individuals who are ready to move past their diagnosis to continue their lives and find love and support. This community offers some social media features, along with a feature that provides suggestions on potential matched based upon user locations.

The app is advertised as a gay dating app but in fact, they accept people from all sexual persuasions who are HIV positive. It is a relative newcomer to the market but is becoming very popular. So far, it is only available on the Apple App Store; but, they promise to expand to Android soon.

Hzone has also had problems with community security. In 2014, they were advised that there had been a data breach on their site. Their reaction to the problem was to deny that it occurred and threaten the security experts with an STD infection. The fact that their main site is still not secure indicates that they still do not take security as seriously as they should. As a result, this is not a dating app that we would recommend.

STD Friends: It is open to anyone with an STD; or even, people without STDs. The app is less popular than MPWH and PositiveSingles but it does have good ratings on Google Play. So far it is not available on the Apple App Store. It is free to browse the community and they promise not to share your information with anyone. However, like Hzone, the community site is not secure so be careful what information is entered there. Before letting you browse the site, they do ask for some information - the most sensitive being the type of STD you have. That being said, they claim they have never had any problems with data being shared without member knowledge.

Reviews on the site are mixed. Recent users have complained of not being able to find anyone to chat with; or, having problems communicating with support. Before signing up, check to make sure these issues have been resolved. Given the fact that the site is not secure in addition to the spotty reviews, this is also an app that we would not recommend.

While there are other apps available, most are either subsidiaries of one of these, appear to not being active anymore, or have extremely bad reviews so we have not covered them here.

STD Dating Platform

Rates of STDs are on the rise

If you are interested in communicating without using an app, there is a very respected and well-established STD dating platform for people who are HIV positive with a mobile friendly website.

POZ PERSONALS: It caters to people who are HIV positive helping them meet others in their community in similar circumstances. Before registering, they give you an estimate of how many people in your region match up with what you are seeking. The site is secure so your information should be as well. Testimonials from members claim they have been successful in finding companionship. POZ Personals are also active on social media. Like other sites, they feature a free option and a premium paid option. The paid option includes (among other things):

  • Information about people who have viewed your profile
  • Saved search information
  • Blocking features
  • Captcha free messages
  • Top Ranking in Searches

The paid option is relatively inexpensive running from about $4.00 per month for a yearly membership and $10.00 per month for just one month. The FAQ section on the site is very extensive and clearly answers most questions. In particular, it is easy to cancel your profile if you choose to; and, it will be deleted.

Online STD Dating Tips

Dating apps have become extremely popular and are becoming the number one way that singles meet in the Smartphone age. But with the rise in popularity of dating apps, we have also seen an associated rise in STD infections. Traditional dating apps have struggled to address this issue by offering STD testing or special filters allowing users to identify their status but these initiatives have not been very successful. For someone who has been infected with an incurable STD, dating apps pose a particular problem. STD dating apps or other such solutions would seem to be a good solution to the problem.

The STD dating apps we have discussed here are just a few of the ones that you will find available today. The ever-growing number of these apps signals a growing awareness, acceptance and support of the increasing number of people living with STDs. However, most of the STD dating apps we reviewed had quite a few shortcomings. Before signing up and engaging with any of these kinds of communities, we would recommend taking these steps:

  • Read the Terms and Conditions, paying attention to how the community handles inappropriate behavior.
  • Carefully review the Privacy Policy to make sure you are comfortable with how your information is shared; and, what steps they take to protect the information from hackers. Make sure there is an option for deleting your profile and permanently removing your information from their database. If they have a website, check to see if it is secure. A non-secure website could indicate that their attitude towards security is lax.
  • Read reviews and success stories in the App Store or Google Play as well as researching online in search engines to see what people are saying about the community as far as activity and success. Make sure they have members in your area.
  • Get tested for STDs before engaging in any activity and make sure any potential partner is tested as well. Just because other members are already infected with HIV or Herpes doesn't mean that they can't also have other STDs.

The popularity of these apps is a very positive development in terms of reducing the stigma once associated with these illnesses. However, since that stigma has not yet disappeared entirely, people who value their right to choose who they confide in, as to their STD status, will want to be careful in choosing their apps. They need to be looking into their options carefully to ensure that the STD dating app they choose have a solid reputation for protecting users' personal information for online safety and privacy.

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Picture and Chart source:

Graphs and Infographics are obtained from the CDC and the University of Washington.

ACT for Youth. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Retrieved from http://actforyouth.net/sexual_health/behaviors/std.cfm

Charts were compiled from STD Surveillance data from the CDC.