April is Sexually Transmitted Infection month. Knowing that STIs are a common cause of infertility in men, we dug in and discovered a few stats that were, well, a little alarming. The bad news is, sexually transmitted infections are incredibly common and are on the rise. The good news is that STIs are almost all completely treatable and if detected and treated in time. Learn a few facts and keep your manhood safe.
110 million Americans are infected with a sexually transmitted disease
The CDC estimates that there are nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections every year accounting for nearly 16 billion dollars in health care costs. Many diseases such as human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis are not routinely reported to the CDC which makes it difficult to monitor how rapidly diseases are spreading. But, according to information that they do have, they are on the rise.
The most common infection reported Chlamydia with 1.4 million cases reported in 2014, more new infections than have ever been seen by the CDC. Other common diseases include Gonorrhea (350,000 cases in 2014) and Syphilis (20,000 cases in 2014) All three of these diseases reported increased numbers of reported cases over previous years with Syphilis showing the largest increase of 15% over 2013.
Online dating can be risky
Online dating is a growing avenue to meet new people. Surveys show that nearly 50% of Americans meet dates through online services. However, a recent study showed that risk of infection is higher among those who meet online. This study was limited in that it only looked at syphilis exposure among gay men, it showed a significant higher risk among those who met online (3x greater risk) and is a wake up call that we need to be careful.
More than 20% of STI infections are extragenital
A large study by Johns Hopkins of over 10,000 people revealed that 14% of chlamydia cases and more than 30% of gonorrhea cases are extragenital. This drives home the point that any type of sexual activity can put you at risk for an STI. These infections often do not have symptoms but can lead to active infections that can be difficult to identify because people are not aware that sexually transmitted diseases can impact other parts of the body.
STIs cause infertility
Both men and women are at risk of developing permanent infertility due to untreated sexually transmitted infection. Most talked about is the risk of women developing pelvic inflammatory disease due to an untreated chlamydia infection which can permanently scar the fallopian tubes. Men are equally at risk as chlamydia is known to scar microtubules in the testicle or the epididymis, the tube that stores sperm as they mature. Scarring of these small tubes can lead to a low sperm count or even obstructive azoospermia.
More than 50% of people with an STI don’t know they have it
STIs used to be called STDs. Why the name change? Disease refers to a medical condition that has symptoms, yet many infections that are spread sexually do not show symptoms and often those who are infected do not know it. This is part of why it is difficult for researchers to truly know the number of new STI cases each year. The number of people who don’t know they have a given infection varies by disease. Herpes and chlamydia are two common infections that often do not have symptoms and researchers estimate that over 50% of people who have them do not know it.
Tips for protecting your manhood
All these stats might make your little buddy downstairs want to run and hide. While he has reason for concern there are things you can do to keep him and you safe.
Wear a helmet: While condoms can make sex a little less fun, an STI can make sex permanently suck. Wearing a condom is proven to keep your buddy safe.
Get tested: Regular testing can help detect infection early and make treatment easy and cheap. Testing doesn’t have to be inconvenient or cost and arm and a leg. There are lots of low cost testing centers. Or, if you want more privacy, an awesome new start-up called myLAB Box is offering a private, in-home, comprehensive, discreet testing service. It’s worth the peace of mind.
Get treated: Many common infections are treatable and even if it isn’t bothering you now, an STI can lead to future problems for you or your partners. Treatment is often as simple as a quick course of antibiotics — cheap, easy, effective. Take care of it and keep your little friend below the belt working hard at what he does best.