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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect tens of millions of people in the United States, and there are almost 20 million new infections each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men may not realize they’re infected, because many infected men have no symptoms. However, that doesn’t mean that STDs aren’t affecting their health.
Not all STDs have symptoms, but when they occur in men, they can include:
The most common STDs affecting men include:
STDs can affect any man who is sexually active, regardless of his age, race, or sexual orientation. However, many STDs are highly preventable.
Abstinence is the only foolproof method to protect against STDs. However, by being aware of changes in your body and practicing safer sex, you can protect yourself and your partners. Consistently practicing safe sex makes the transmission of an infection less likely.
STDs can be transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It’s important to practice safe sex during all sexual activities. Condoms can be used for vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Dental dams and other barriers can be used for any type of oral sex.
Many people believe that oral sex is risk-free. However, numerous STDs can be transmitted during oral sex, including syphilis, herpes, and gonorrhea.
Some STDs spread more easily during anal sex. These STDs may be more common in men who have sex with men. No matter your sexual orientation, you should take good care of your sexual health by always having safe sex and being regularly tested for STDs.
Regular STD testing is a good idea if you’re not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship. Although safe sex is good at reducing STD transmission, it’s not perfect. Regular testing is the best way to take charge of your sexual health.
It’s important to ask your doctor for STD testing. You may assume that your doctor will screen you for STDs at your annual physical exam, but if you don’t ask, you may not be tested. Even if your doctor does test you, you may not be given every test you want—there aren’t good screening tests for every STD. Ask your doctor at every physical exactly what you’re being tested for and why.
If you suspect you have an STD (and you live in the United States), find a testing center near you at https://gettested.cdc.gov. Contact them as soon as you can to avoid any long-term effects of a potential STD.
You should request STD tests at every physical, but you should also visit a testing center any time you’ve had unprotected sex (especially if you believe your partner may have an STD). Test results are usually available in a few days to a week. Some may require simple urine samples, but others may require blood tests.
While women can get a Pap smear and HPV test, there currently isn’t an HPV screening test for men. Some types of HPV cause no symptoms, while others cause genital warts. Talk with your doctor if you notice any bumps or warts.
To determine what STD tests you need, talk to your doctor honestly about your sexual risk. Tell your doctor if you think you might have been exposed to an STD, or if you’re just coming in for preventive screening.
It’s also good to mention whether you practice receptive anal sex. Anal sex can put you at risk of certain STDs that require special testing. For example, an anal Pap smear can be used to test for signs of HPV-related anal cancers.
Finally, tell your doctor if you reliably practice safe sex for oral, anal, and vaginal sex. This can help your doctor assess your risk for various infections.
Complications of STDs can be minor, such as inflammation of the eyes and pain in the pelvic region.
Other complications can be life-threatening or otherwise cause lasting harm, such as:
Treatment for STDs varies based on whether the STD is bacterial or viral.
Viral STDs, such as herpes, must be treated with antiviral drugs. Sometimes, these drugs must be taken daily to keep the infection from breaking out again. This is known as suppressive therapy.
HPV cannot be cured completely, but getting vaccinated can help you substantially lower your risk of contracting HPV or an HPV-related STD.
A pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill can help you avoid getting HIV if your doctor believes you’re at risk. The pill consists of two drugs that fight HIV if it enters your body and treat any symptoms or complications. This pill must be taken every day. It can be a successful method of preventing HIV along with other safe sex habits.
Sexually transmitted diseases are more common than you might think. Whenever you see any symptoms of an STD or believe you may have become infected, get tested. See your doctor as soon as possible to avoid any pain or discomfort associated with your symptoms.
Be honest with your doctor when describing your sexual history and your symptoms. Talking about your sex life or getting an STD may feel too personal or uncomfortable to share. But learning about an STD early, taking preventive measures, and getting treatment quickly will help prevent long-term consequences to your health as well as allow you to enjoy a healthier sex life.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team and Tim Jewell
Medically reviewed on: Mar 02, 2017: Euna Chi, MD
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