Posts for category: Sexual Health
Have you been screened for STI's, or Sexually Transmitted Infections? Surprisingly, most Americans do not prioritize this important health testing. Plus, many health care providers do not routinely offer testing for STI's of any kind; so, patients must ask them about it, says the American Sexual Health Association.
How often should you be screened for STIs?
The short answer is that everyone from ages 13 to 65 should receive a baseline screening for HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, states the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). STIs, including HIV, often show no symptoms but can cause serious health issues over time. Also, says the CDC, routine testing, treatment, and follow-up limits transmission of disease from sexual partner to partner. So, all adults should ask their doctors for testing once a year. In fact, they should insist upon it.
Who is at risk for an STI?
Potentially anyone is at risk. However, some populations definitely are more prone to infection. They include:
- Male homosexuals
- People who have several sexual partners
- Women under the age of 25
- Sex workers
- Individuals who have unprotected sex
Transmission of STIs is easier than most people realize. Oral, anal, or vaginal sex can spread the microbes or insect vectors responsible for these often dangerous and hard to treat diseases. While many people believe they cannot ever have a Sexually Transmitted Infection, WebMD says the vast majority of Americans actually have had an active form some kind of STI.
What do tests look for?
Screening tests look for:
- HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus
- HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, which is linked to oral and cervical cancer
- Hepatitis B and C, caused by viruses
- Trichomoniasis, a parasite infection
Tests are simple, utilizing a urine sample, blood draw, or swab of oral or genital tissues.
Don't ignore the obvious or not so obvious
STIs can impact your health and interpersonal relationships. So, be sure you know where you stand. Women, talk to your OB/GYN about testing, and men, do the same with your primary care physician. It's what you do not know that can truly harm you and your loved ones.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans are infected with HPV. There are many strains of this infection, some of which can cause cancer. This is why it’s important that you visit your gynecologist once a year for annual checkups and screenings.
Symptoms of HPV
Unfortunately, men and women can have HPV and never know, since symptoms aren’t common with this STD. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts, a cluster of bumps that can be found on the vulva or cervix of a woman and may develop on the penis or scrotum of a man. Once infected, genital warts can appear as early as 3 months after exposure; however, it can sometimes take longer.
Since high-risk HPV (HPV that causes cervical cancer) doesn’t often cause symptoms this means that the best action you can take to protect your health is to visit your gynecologist once a year for an annual exam. During this exam, your OBGYN can perform a physical examination, as well as a PAP smear and HPV test to check for changes in cervical cells that could be a warning sign of cancer or pre-cancer.
While there is no test to determine if you have HPV or not, there are tests available that can check for cervical cancer that is most likely caused by HPV. These screenings usually begin around the age of 30. Of course, if you develop vaginal bumps, sores or other changes it’s important that you see your doctor right away.
During a Pap smear, your gynecologist will scrape cells from the cervix and send them to a lab, where they will look for any cellular changes. A Pap smear only takes a couple of minutes to perform and those who’ve never had abnormal results may only need to get a Pap smear every three years. Those who have had positive results in the past may need to get tested more regularly.
Luckily, there is now a vaccine available to protect against certain types of HPV, particularly the strains that are the greatest risk for developing cervical cancer. Before recently, the vaccine had only been approved for people ages 9 to 25 but now the FDA has approved the vaccine for adults ages 27 to 45. These vaccines only work on patients who’ve never had HPV before; this is why it’s important to vaccinate teens early on to protect against certain strains of high-risk HPV.
Is it time for your annual women’s appointment? If you are interested in getting tested for HPV, you can easily schedule an HPV screening to be performed during your next checkup.
If you are sexually active, getting regular STI screenings is a crucial and proactive practice to adopt for both your health and the health of your future partners. It’s important to know if you have an STI so that the infection can be treated or managed before more serious health complications set in. While using condoms, being monogamous and avoiding risky behaviors can go a long way to keeping you healthy and safe from infection, it’s important that everyone who is sexually active continue to get screened, no matter their age.
When To Get Tested
It’s important to get routine screenings even if you feel fine and aren’t experiencing symptoms, as many people with STIs don’t ever experience symptoms. Even when symptoms do arise it’s easy to mistake them for less serious issues such as the common cold or flu virus. Did you know that some STIs present with a fever, sore throat and muscle aches? What might seem like the regular influenza virus could actually be an STI. Furthermore, it’s not that uncommon to be exposed to more than one STI at a time. So, you could have multiple infections and not know it.
While a lot of people feel nervous or even embarrassed to get STI screenings, having an OBGYN or medical doctor that you trust is the most important. Trust us; they’ve heard it all, so you should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your sexual health. Being as honest as possible about your current or past sexual history is important to make sure you get the proper medical care.
Even though untreated STIs can lead to more serious health problems down the road, the good news is that many STIs can easily be treated if the infection is caught early enough. Even incurable STIs like hepatitis, herpes, and HIV can be managed through simple lifestyle changes and medications to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and to improve your quality of life.
Even if you come in once a year for a wellness checkup or Pap smear, this doesn’t mean that you are getting screened for an STI. Of course, during your routine exam you can ask to also be screened for STIs. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, having an untreated STI can cause serious health risks for your unborn child.
It’s important that you get regular STI testing to ensure that you and your partners enjoy a safe and healthy lifestyle!
While your period may put a damper on some of your activities it doesn’t have to get in the way of everything. OB-GYNs often hear women asking whether it’s okay to have sex while on their period. The simple answer is that sex is completely fine during this time of the month. Of course, there is a lot more that goes into it. Find out everything you need to know about having sex while on your period to decide whether this is the right decision for you.
The first thing to consider is how comfortable you feel with having sex while on your period. It’s completely natural and completely safe, but some women are concerned that they might feel a bit self-conscious or that they may ruin the sheets. If you are concerned about getting blood on your bedding, you can always place a towel down, or opt for another location such as the shower that won’t have you worried that you may have to throw out your nice new sheets.
One benefit to having sex while on your period is that menstruation can often act as a lubricant, which can make the act more pleasurable for everyone. Plus, with the elevation of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, you may find yourself more sexually charged and more easily aroused, which can be a major plus. If you also find that you easily experience dryness during sex then having sex while on your period may actually improve the situation. It’s even believed that orgasms can help with menstrual cramps.
Of course, there are two other things to consider before you get down to business. The first thing you’ll want to do is discuss this with your partner to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the idea of having sex while on your period. By making sure that your partner is completely comfortable with the situation you negate any negative thoughts or concerns you may have during sex.
The second thing to consider is that many women hear that they can’t get pregnant during their period so they opt to have sex without a condom. It’s important that you talk to your gynecologist about the risks involved in not using a condom. Besides the risk of contracting STDs, there is also still a possibility that you could get pregnant. For some women, their ovulation overlaps with their menstruation. If you aren’t taking birth control then you’ll want to wear protection even during this time of the month.
If you have questions about your sexual health, menstruation or other women’s health issues, your OBGYN is here to help. There is no question too embarrassing or awkward. We are here to make sure you get the answers you need to lead a healthy life.
What you need to know about sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, cause irritating symptoms, but they can also result in severe illness or even death. Abstaining from sex is the most fool-proof way to avoid an STD, but this is not always possible or practical. You can protect yourself from STDs in other ways by following a few simple steps. Your doctor wants you to stay safe by:
- Always using condoms when you have sex, because condoms are highly effective in preventing STDs.
- Practicing mutual monogamy, because having only one sex partner dramatically reduces your chances of being exposed to STDs, as long as you and your partner are uninfected
- Limiting your number of sex partners, because fewer sex partners reduces your risk of exposure to STDs
- Get vaccinated, because the vaccine to prevent HPV is both safe and effective to protect against cervical cancer
One of the most important ways to protect yourself and others from transmitting STDs is to get tested. Testing can aid in early diagnosis and treatment of STDs, which can result in a better treatment outcome.Your doctor wants you to consider STD testing for you and your partner before having sex for the first time. You should also consider STD testing if you have had:
- Sex without using protection
- Sex with multiple partners, or sex with a partner who is not monogamous
- Intravenous drug use yourself, or sex with a partner who has used intravenous drugs
It’s important to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, but it is just as important to be able to recognize when you might have an STD. Your doctor wants you to be able to recognize some of the common symptoms of STDs, including:
- Penile or vaginal discharge
- Genital sores
- Burning and Itching during urination
You can have an STD and not have any symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get tested by your doctor. You and your partner both deserve to enjoy sex and remain healthy. Visit your doctor to get tested and find out more about how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. Call today!