If it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? Wrong. It’s easy for men to become complacent about sexually transmitted diseases when you’ve had a clean run for years.
Unfortunately giving the old pecker a decent scrub in the shower just doesn’t cut it anymore (not that we’re suggesting any sort of cutting near nether regions). What we are suggesting though is taking the risk of sexually transmitted diseases seriously.
With the help of Dr. Stephen Massey of Bondi Doctors, we’re revealing the dangers of what can happen when you don’t treat sexually transmitted diseases.
What is it: One of the most common STDs that affect men is herpes (types: HSV-1 and HSV-2). It’s a painful infection of the genitals that’s commonly spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Whilst it can’t be cured once contracted, there are effective treatments that can control it.
If you ignore it: “If you don’t go on meds to control it then the infection can keep recurring,” says Dr. Massey.
“You’re affected by recurring painful rashes and perhaps even more important is the greater chance of spreading it onto partners.”
“Thats’ the real value of getting herpes checked out – so we can get you on tablets as soon as possible.”
The need to control the spread of the virus comes from the fact that it’s so prevalent in today’s society.
Gonorrhoea & Chlamydia
What is it: We often talk about these two STDs in the same sentence because they both cause urethritis in men – that means inflammation of the urethra and penis with symptoms like penile discharge and pain. The latter is more typical with gonorrhoea.
If you ignore Chlamydia: “Lots of chlamydia cases don’t have symptoms,” says Dr. Massey.
“Up to 70% of men have no symptoms at all. This in itself highlights the value of getting sexual health checks done even if you don’t have any symptoms and especially if you’re having casual partners or unprotected sex.”
If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to a condition called Epididymo-orchitis. This affects men’s testicles by causing them to be inflamed to a painful state. And whilst the condition can be treated, experts still haven’t ruled whether it can impact fertility.
“That’s the concern,” says Dr. Massey. “Any infection of the testicle makes theoretically sense that that it could reduce fertility.”
Those infected with Chlamydia can have it for months even years without even knowing. “You certainly can’t rely on symptoms to diagnose Chlamydia,” says Dr. Massey.
“It’s probably worth mentioning gay men can get these infections anally or in the throat too.”
If you ignore Gonorrhoea:
Untreated Gonorrhoea is no better either. Over time Gonorrhoea can spread to other parts of the body like it in the joints where it can cause arthritis. If it gets into the blood stream this can cause Septicemia or blood poisoning.
“That’s a severe bacterial infection,” says Dr. Massey.
“Gonorrhoea would usually have symptoms so people will present with a discharge and pain, so it’s very unlikely to have it and not know about it.”
Gonorrhoea symptoms begin to show usually within days.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
What is it: This is the virus that causes warts on the human body. There are many different strains of HPV from finger warts to foot warts. Genital warts are sexually transmitted and some strains of HPV can even cause certain types of cancers.
“The strains that cause these cancers are not the same strains that cause visible warts so there aren’t any symptoms that early on,” says Dr. Massey.
If you ignore it: HPV will rarely cause penile and anal cancers in men. They do however affect women if they’re infected through sex and this can lead to cervical cancer.
“Most people’s immune systems will clear the virus; we don’t know why some will go on to develop problems. That’s why women have cervical cancer testing.”
Boys in high school are now vaccinated to stop them from spreading HPV to females as they’re the ones who are at risk of developing cancer.
“If you see warts down there it doesn’t mean you’re at risk of cancers. Different strains cause the visible warts, not the kind that cause cancers. But if you have any lumps or swellings on the penis, testicles or anus, you shouldn’t just think it’s warts. Get it checked by your GP.”
What is it: Syphilis is an STD most prevalent amongst gay men. It can show in the form of a non-itchy skin rash or small skin growths on the anus. It can also bring about flu-like symptoms, weight loss and hair loss.
If you ignore it: “Left unchecked, it can affect the heart and brain,” says Dr. Massey.
“Early symptoms could be a painless sore on the penis. Herpes as an example is painful. You may get a sore down there and think because it’s painless it couldn’t be anything, but that could be the first symptom of syphilis.”
“It’s very easily treated with antibiotics at the early stage but left untreated over years it can be really damaging and even fatal.”
As will all STDs or anomalies, any kind of lump, bump or sore in the genital area needs a check up quickly.
What is it: Whilst entirely rare in heterosexual males in Australia, it is still important to note. In the early stages it’s likely that a man wouldn’t know they had HIV.
“When you first contract HIV you’ll have an influenza or a flu-like illness. There are many things that can give you those symptoms so people aren’t alert to it or wouldn’t think it’s HIV since it often settles quickly.”
“And then you can feel completely well for months or years while your immune system slowly depletes. It’s not often until quite late in the illness when people call it Aids – that’s when your immune system gets low enough that you start to develop symptoms of illness.”
“This latter stage could occur 3, 5 or even 10 years down the track.”
If you ignore it: Untreated HIV was fatal back in the day but now at whatever stage of the illness it can be treated – not curable but can be treated.
“The longer you leave it and the more weaker your immune system becomes and the more likely your are to have long term consequences,” says Dr. Massey.
“So we recommend people are treated at their very first diagnosis even if they are years off develop any problems. You’ll have much better survival and health outcomes.”