It’s not exactly cocktail party conversation, but sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spreading at higher rates than ever in the senior community, according to CDC studies reported in Psychology Today. While the subject of STD prevention may be uncomfortable, these rising statistics show it’s a conversation seniors need to have. Here’s a closer look at STD symptoms, signs, and prevention tips — and the benefits of conducting a personal STD risk assessment.
Signs and Symptoms
If you’ve had sexual contact with a partner who hasn’t been screened and are at risk for an STD, it’s important that you consult your doctor as soon as possible. Some STDs produce no symptoms, and can only be detected during an STD screening, but there are others that exhibit symptoms you’ll want to discuss with your doctor if they appear. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Chlamydia – painful urination, genital discharge, abdominal or testicular pain, painful intercourse
- Gonorrhea – painful urination, anal itching, thick or bloody genital discharge, painful bowel movements, inflamed or painful testicles
- Genital herpes – red bumps, blisters or open lesions in genital area, pain or itching in genital area, buttocks and inner thighs
- Genital warts – gray or flesh-colored bumps in genital area, itching, bleeding with intercourse, cauliflower-like groupings of lesions
- Syphilis – small, painless sore in genital/rectal area or mouth, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, penny-sized rash of reddish-brown sores
- Hepatitis – fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, dark-colored urine, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, jaundice
- HIV – fever, swollen lymph glands, fatigue, sore throat, rash, headache
These symptoms can also occur with other medical conditions, so assessment by a healthcare professional is crucial to proper treatment.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
STD prevention begins with a risk assessment. Are you in a long-term monogamous relationship in which neither partner has an infection, or are you sexually active with one or more partners who haven’t been screened for STDs? If you fall in the latter group, you’ll want to use condoms with all partners until you engage in a monogamous relationship and any sexually transmitted diseases are ruled out by your doctor.
Another important element of an STD risk assessment is candor. Have an honest conversation with any sexual partners you’ve had unprotected sex with, so you can accurately assess your risk of infection. It’s an awkward subject to bring up, but it’s far better to treat any infections early to minimize adverse symptoms and prevent further transmission.
While you’re probably familiar with condom use, remember to use latex — as lambskin will not protect you from STDs, and polyurethane condoms are more prone to breaking during intercourse. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also recommends using only water-based lubricants, as other substances could cause condoms to break. Store condoms in a cool place and don’t use expired condoms. For more information about the many methods of protection that are available, ask your doctor or other medical professional.
By educating yourself and your partners about the risks of STDs as well as other healthcare issues, you can help change this alarming health trend in seniors.