Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one million STDs are acquired every day worldwide.
These diseases are manageable, but it’s important to learn how to recognize them in order to get timely treatment and prevent complications. The main focus of this post is the manifestation of STDs in men. Scroll down to learn more about STD symptoms men and so much more.
Common STDs in men
Over 30 different viruses, bacteria, and parasites are known to transmit through sexual contact. For example, Mycoplasma genitalium can cause acute and chronic urethritis in men, alongside uncomfortable symptoms. You can even give pubic lice to someone else.
Sexually transmitted infections are numerous such as hepatitis B, but some are more common in men than others. Below, we’re going to talk about the most common types of STDs in men. Read on to see them all and see the most common STD symptoms.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. The numbers show Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. For example, in 2018, a total of 1,758,668 cases of this condition were reported. Of these, 610,447 infections were reported by men.
An estimated 2.86 million infections occur annually. The numbers could be even higher. Many cases of Chlamydia infection are asymptomatic. People don’t have symptoms and don’t see the doctor who would order a test and diagnose the infection.
Chlamydia is known as a silent infection because most infected people are asymptomatic and lack abnormal physical examination findings. If you do get symptoms, they tend to appear between one and three weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person. On average, the incubation period is five to 10 days.
Chlamydia symptoms in men and women are similar, except that ladies have vaginal discharge. The most common signs of Chlamydial infection are:
- Dysuria (pain or discomfort when urinating)
- Mucoid or watery discharge from the penis
- Testicular pain
- Pain in the lower abdomen
You’re more likely to get Chlamydia if you are sexually active before the age of 25. Having multiple sex partners and failing to use condoms consistently also increase the odds of this infection.
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for Chlamydia. Depending on the symptoms, you may receive a one-time dose or take medication for five to 10 days. Untreated Chlamydia can lead to various complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, pain, and continued spreading of the infection.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease that affects about 776,000 people in the United States annually.
The infection is more common in women than in men. For instance, in 2015-2016, genital herpes were reported among 15.9% of women and 8.2% of men. The difference happens because it’s easier to transfer genital infection from men to women than vice versa.
Most people with herpes simplex virus (HSV) are asymptomatic or develop mild, almost unnoticeable symptoms. When present, symptoms may begin within two to 12 days after exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain, itching, tenderness in the genital area
- Small red bumps or tiny blisters
Men can develop sores on the penis, scrotum, buttocks and thighs, anus, and mouth.
Herpes simplex virus causes genital herpes. Two strains of this virus can lead to this STD:
- HSV-1 – usually causes cold sores or blisters around the mouth. It is spread through skin-to-skin contact, but it can also transfer from one person’s genital area to another’s during oral sex.
- HSV-2 – spreads through sexual and skin-to-skin contact, highly contagious
There is no cure for genital herpes. Treatment lessens the severity and duration of symptoms, helps sores heal sooner, reduces the frequency of recurrence, and minimizes the chances of spreading the infection to someone else.
Remember, you can give someone genital herpes even if you don’t have symptoms such as sores. The treatment relies on antiviral medications such as Acyclovir (Zovirax) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex).
Genital warts and human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most commonly transmitted disease through sexual intercourse. The CDC reports that about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV.
About 14 million new cases develop annually. In fact, HPV is so common that almost every sexually active person will get it at some point in their lifetime. Human papillomavirus causes genital warts.
In most cases, the immune system defeats an HPV infection before it creates warts. However, when symptoms do develop, they show up in two to three months after infection. They include:
- Small areas of swelling around the penis
- cauliflower-shaped warts
- Itching around penis
If genital warts don’t cause discomfort, you may not need treatment. But, if you do experience discomfort and itching, your doctor may recommend medications or surgery to clear an outbreak.
Genital warts medications go directly on the skin, and they may include Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara), Podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox), trichloroacetic acid, and Sinecatechins (Veregen).
Surgery is an option for larger warts and may include laser treatments, surgical excision, cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen), and electrocautery. When ignored, HPV can cause various complications in women, such as cervical cancer, but also in men too.
Gonorrhea, also known as the clap, is an STD caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea. Like other STDs, people spread gonorrhea through sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal, and anal).
The CDC estimates that approximately 1.14 million new infections occur in the U.S. annually. Almost half of those infections are among young people 15 to 24 years of age.
In many cases, gonorrhea is asymptomatic. However, symptoms can occur and affect different sites of your body. Of course, the symptoms of gonorrhea infection primarily affect the genital area. In men, symptoms of gonorrhea appear two to seven days after the infection, but in some cases, it can take up to 30 days for symptoms to begin. Signs of gonorrhea include:
- Burning during urination
- Yellow or green discharge
- Pain in the testicles
Treatment of gonorrhea relies on antibiotics. Uncomplicated gonorrhea treatment involves antibiotic ceftriaxone (given as an injection) and oral antibiotic azithromycin (Zithromax). Like other STDs, untreated gonorrhea can lead to more serious complications.
Syphilis is an STD caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. If not adequately treated, syphilis can cause serious health problems. In 2018, there were 115,045 reported new diagnoses of syphilis (all stages) in the U.S.
The disease develops in stages, and symptoms vary from one stage to another. However, stages may overlap, and symptoms may not occur in the same order. The average time between the acquisition of syphilis and the onset of symptoms is 21 days, but it can range from 10 to 90 days.
The first symptom of primary syphilis is a small sore (chancre) at the spot where bacterium entered the body. Secondary syphilis involves a rash that starts on the trunk and spreads across the body. The rash develops within a few weeks of the original chancre healing. The rash isn’t itchy, and warts in the genital area or around the mouth can accompany it.
If you don’t get timely treatment, the disease can move on to the next stage – hidden or latent syphilis. This stage doesn’t have symptoms and may last for years. In some people, symptoms never return, but in other tertiary stage develops. This is a late stage of syphilis, and it may damage the brain, eyes, nerves, heart, blood vessels, liver, joints, and bones.
Syphilis is easy to cure when diagnosed in the early stages. The most common treatment is with penicillin. For men who are allergic to penicillin, the doctor may recommend a different antibiotic or penicillin desensitization.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system.
Untreated HIV leads to AIDS. People can develop HIV infection through sexual intercourse with an infected person, but also blood. In 2018, a total of 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. and dependant areas.
Primary HIV symptoms may develop two to four weeks after initial exposure. Symptoms can continue for a few weeks. In some people, they may last a few days only. Symptoms of primary infection include:
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes, particularly lymph nodes on the neck
- Sore throat and painful mouth sores
After the primary infection, a patient enters the latent phase where symptoms are absent, but STD is still present in the body. HIV is not a curable disease, but some medications can control the condition and prevent complications. These medications are called antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite that travels between people through sexual intercourse. About 3.7 million people in the U.S. have trichomoniasis, an STD which increases the risk of getting or spreading HIV.
Most people don’t have symptoms of trichomoniasis. However, signs and symptoms may develop within five to 28 days after being infected. They can include itching on the penis, painful urination, and penile discharge.
The most common treatment option is to swallow a megadose of either metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax).
How to prevent an STD
Every sexually active man can develop an STD regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, and any other factor. That being said, sexually transmitted diseases are preventable. The foolproof way to prevent an STD is to abstain from sex. However, for many men, that’s not the ideal prevention method.
You want to be sexually active, but still to prevent STDs. In order to make it happen, you need to practice safe sex. Keep in mind that sexually transmitted infections can spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex, so you need to wear a condom on all these occasions. Also, to protect yourself from oral sex, you can try out dental dams and other barriers.
When it comes to the prevention of STDs, your dating life and sexual behavior can also play an important role. You’re more likely to get an STD if you have sexual intercourse with multiple partners in a short timeframe. This is especially the case if your partner also does the same, thus increasing the odds of transmitting the infection to you.
Safe sex practices and regular testing are the best way to prevent an STD and avoid the symptoms and complications that would appear otherwise.
Getting tested for STDs
Getting tested for STD is important if you’re not in a monogamous relationship. The best way to ensure you don’t have a sexually transmitted disease is to get tested regularly. That way, you’ll get peace of mind, but also be more cautious with your sex life.
Many options are available for men who want to get tested for STD. For instance, you can see your doctor about this issue. During the routine physical exam,s you can also ask for an STD test. Make sure to ask specifically about the test.
Another option is to find the nearest clinic or testing center if you suspect you have STD. This is the best case for men who found out their sexual partner has STD and for guys who exhibit some symptoms.
In other words, if you’re worried you have an STD, you should go and get tested immediately. You may also want to get tested for STD every time you have unprotected sex. That’s the only way you’ll know for sure.
Nowadays, there’s an option to buy an at-home testing kit. These kits allow you to send a sample to a laboratory and get results to your address. For many men, this is the best option because it keeps the whole thing private, and it’s more discrete.
Generally speaking, STD testing may require blood samples or urine. The results are available in a few days up to a week.
It’s useful to mention that while women can get Pap smear and HPV test, there is no HPV screening for men at this point. However, if you practice receptive anal sex, you may want to consult the doctor. The healthcare provider may recommend getting an anal Pap smear to test for signs of HPV-related anal cancers.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the doctor about your sexual activity and practices. The information you provide can help them determine the exact test you need or whether you’re at a higher risk of a certain STD.
Sexually transmitted infections require adequate treatment to manage symptoms and prevent complications. When left ignored, STDs can induce unwanted scenarios ranging in severity from mild to serious.
Inflammation of the eyes and pain in the pelvic area are mild complications of STD. More serious problems can also occur. They include:
- Heart disease
- HPV-related cancers of the rectum (and cervix in women)
- Reactive arthritis
You should not ignore sexually transmitted diseases and their symptoms. The timely treatment helps manage symptoms but also helps overcome the disease. Moreover, the treatment helps eliminate the disease, so you don’t spread it to someone else during sexual intercourse.
The exact treatment depends on whether the disease is a bacterial infection or viral STD. Once the STD test shows which disease you have, the doctor recommends the most suitable course of treatment.
Antibiotics treat bacterial diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. The doctor may prescribe metronidazole or tinidazole (primarily for trichomoniasis). On the other hand, antiviral drugs treat viral STDs such as herpes. In some cases, suppressive therapy is necessary. This means you need to take the drug daily to prevent the condition from breaking out again.
Keep in mind that although there is no cure to eliminate HPV, the vaccine can lower the chances of getting HPV and STD linked to it.
If a doctor presumes you’re at risk of HIV, they may recommend pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Basically, that’s a pill that contains two drugs that combat HIV if it enters your body. You need to take it daily. These drugs treat symptoms and complications that may occur.
Most people want to know when they can resume sexual activities. The answer depends on the symptoms and diseases you have. But it may take seven days up to a few weeks before it’s okay to have sex again.
Sexually transmitted diseases are common in men and women alike. Some of them can be asymptomatic, but in many cases, noticeable symptoms occur. These symptoms can affect your quality of life.
You need to treat STDs in order to manage symptoms, improve quality of life, reduce the risk of complications, and make sure you don’t spread them to your sex partner. Your doctor will recommend the most suitable treatment for your condition to help you recover successfully.