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Men’s Sexual Health and STDs: A Crash Course
Unless you practice strict sexual abstinence for your entire life, there is always a chance that you could contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). That’s why it’s important for every man to educate himself about STDs and take proactive steps to safeguard his health.
It’s often difficult for men to make the time for a routine physical, let alone talk to their doctors about embarrassing men’s sexual health problems like STDs. However, in many cases, time is of the essence. If you have unusual symptoms or if you think you might have been exposed to an STD, don’t delay talking to a physician. Remember that rapid treatment equals the most favorable outcome.
STDs Are on the Rise
Any type of sex—oral, anal, and vaginal, as well as genital touching—can potentially spread STDs. Certain types of STDs are more common than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report that indicated a troubling trend for three STDs in particular. The 2019 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, which evaluates data from 2017 to 2018, reveals three key findings:
- Chlamydia increased to over 1.7 million cases (a 3% increase, and the most number of cases ever reported in the U.S.).
- Gonorrhea increased to more than 580,000 cases (a 5% increase, and the most reported since 1991).
- Syphilis cases numbered over 115,000, including a 40% increase in congenital syphilis (syphilis of the newborn, passed down from the mother).
The CDC report suggested a few factors that likely contributed to the rise in STDs. Notably in recent years, the majority of local STD programs have had significant budget cuts, resulting in staff loss, reduced patient follow-up, and clinic closures. There has also been decreased condom usage among high-risk groups, such as young people, and increased poverty, which limits access to STD prevention services and care.
Common STDs in Men: Signs of STD in Men
In addition to chlamydia and gonorrhea, some of the most common STDs in the U.S. are genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and trichomoniasis. Some of the symptoms associated with these STDs are as follows:
- Chlamydia: Painful urination, pain and swelling of the testicles, burning and itching around the penis opening, clear or cloudy discharge from the penis
- Gonorrhea: Greater urgency or frequency of urination, pus-like discharge from the penis, pain or swelling of the testicles, persistent sore throat, and swelling or redness at the tip of the penis
- Genital herpes: A cluster of itchy, painful blisters around the anus, insides of the thighs, or genital region
- Trichomoniasis: Burning pain after urination or ejaculation, penile discharge, and itching or irritation inside the penis
- Syphilis: A firm, round, painless sore, rashes (especially on the palms of hands and soles of feet), and flu-like symptoms
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): Genital warts around the penis or anus
Note that some HPV strains can also cause bodily changes that may lead to cancer, including oral, penile, and anal cancers.
It’s important to know that not every man with an STD will experience symptoms. Sometimes, signs of std in men might not appear until the disease has already progressed. That’s why it’s important to understand your potential for exposure and to talk to a doctor about getting screened on a regular basis.
Here’s What to Do If Your Partner Has an STD
All individuals should consider themselves ethically obligated to promptly inform their sexual partners (both past and present) if they have tested positive for any type of STD. Once the news breaks, you’ll likely have a flood of strong emotions to contend with. Not only do you need to get your own physical health evaluated, but you may start to have nagging doubts about your partner’s faithfulness.
Before anyone starts pointing fingers, know that STDs can lurk in the body for a long time, undetected. It’s possible that your partner had an STD before meeting you, and it’s only been diagnosed recently. It’s also possible that your partner had an STD a long time ago and was treated, but the initial treatment did not completely clear up the infection and a re-emergence occurred. In addition, you may have actually been the one who infected your partner. Before either you or your partner starts playing the blame game, it’s essential to talk to a doctor.
If you haven’t been tested yet, get to a clinic promptly. You can go to your primary care doctor or you might prefer to go to a sexual health clinic. These often offer anonymous testing services. Ask to get a full screening for all STDs—it’s possible to have more than one.
While waiting for the results, abstain from sexual contact with your partner. Your partner should be getting treated for the STD. Many are curable with medications. If your test comes back positive and you need to start treatment too, you’ll need to abstain from all sexual activity until both you and your partner are STD-free.
Condoms can reduce the risk of STD transmission. However, they aren’t foolproof and they may not protect against certain STDs. Genital warts, for instance, are often present in areas that aren’t covered by condoms. Play it safe and abstain for the time being, and make sure to follow any other instructions your doctor gives you.
The Most Common Men’s Sexual Health Problems
STDs are a major concern, but they aren’t the only sexual health problem that men should be aware of. Here are a few common ones:
- Erectile dysfunction: Difficulty getting or keeping an erection
- Premature ejaculation: Having an orgasm too quickly
- Inhibited ejaculation: Not reaching an orgasm quickly enough
- Retrograde ejaculation: The ejaculate does not exit the penis, but instead is forced backward
- Low libido: Lack of sexual desire
Often, a combination of factors contributes to these problems, including physical and mental or emotional issues. Sometimes, an underlying health problem is to blame, such as diabetes, sleep apnea or nerve disorders. Lifestyle issues, such as smoking and drinking, may also contribute
If you’ve been experiencing problems, you should know you’re not alone. Plenty of men have been in the same boat. And although it might be an awkward conversation for you to have, you really do need to talk to your doctor about what you’re dealing with. It’s better to get help and get back in control of your life than to let the problem go unresolved.
It’s every man’s responsibility to protect his sexual health. When you pre-order your copy of Dr. John Shufeldt’s latest book, The Real Man Plan, you’ll get the blueprint you need to successfully regain control of your own wellness. It applies a holistic approach to achieving greater physical and mental health, based on the latest scientific research. Pre-order your copy today and look forward to a better tomorrow!
John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, FACEP is an emergency physician by avocation and entrepreneur at heart. He is an author, speaker, serial student, airline transport pilot and multidisciplinary entrepreneur, who has founded and operated several multi-million-dollar businesses.
Throughout all of his endeavors, John has maintained a relentless drive to help people rescript their future and reach their full potential.
His multifaceted experience as a physician, attorney, speaker and entrepreneur gives him rare insight into what makes a business succeed.
Over the years, John has come to realize that successful businesses don’t just happen. They succeed as a result of strong leadership, learning from failures and a well-executed business plan. An efficient organization is built on lean practices, proactive teams, a positive work environment and a solid foundation for continued growth.