How to Prevent STD Complications
Every year, millions of Americans contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD), experieicing a broad range of symptoms that can take a big toll on their health and their confidence. Learning how to prevent STDs and the complications they can cause is an important skill for anyone who’s sexually active.
At Medical Access, our team offers an array of STD testing and treatments, along with confidential and compassionate counseling to help patients of all ages take important steps toward better health. Want to reduce your risk of STDs and the complications and symptoms they can cause? These five tips can help.
1. Know your risk factors
Anyone who’s sexually active is at risk for “catching” an STD, but a higher risk of infection has been associated with certain risk factors, like:
About half of all new STDs occur in people between the ages of 15-24. That may be because of peer pressure, lack of experience, or a still-developing risk-reward system in the brain. There’s nothing you can do about this risk factor except wait to get older, but if you’re in this age group, knowing that your risk is increased may help you be more aware.
Using drugs or alcohol
Smoking pot and using alcohol or other drugs — legal or not — can dramatically increase your risk of contracting an STD simply because these substances can affect your judgment. They may also affect your risk-taking behavior, causing you to do “unsafe” things you would not do when sober. Bottom line: To stay safe, don’t use drugs of any kind before having sex.
History of depression or anxiety
Data shows that people with depression and anxiety may be more prone to taking risks, possibly because of shifts in their brain chemicals. If you fall into this group, be aware of your increased risk for getting an STD (and ask our team about help for emotional health issues).
2. Understand what “safer sex” really is
People are going to have sex, and abstinence — although effective — is probably not a practical strategy for anyone who wants to avoid an STD. In fact, even during the “lockdown” of the recent pandemic, 2.4 million STD infections were reported. But there are safer sex practices that can dramatically reduce your risk of contracting an STD — and keep you from passing an infection on to someone else.
Planned Parenthood and many medical organizations offer a range of safer sex guidlines. Being familiar with lots of safer sex practices can help you decide what you can do in your own life to reduce your risks. Our team is ready to provide you with some helpful tips, and an internet search of reputable sources can help, too.
3. Use condoms
STDs are transmitted when people swap sexual fluids, so obviously, anything you can do to prevent sharing those fluids can help. Using condoms — all the time — is a good way to prevent STDs that come from direct sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Condoms can’t prevent 100% of STDs, especially when an STD causes an ulcer or sore elsewhere, like the mouth or throat. But using a condom correctly — like every time you have sex — is one of the best ways to avoid infection. If you’re sexually active — regardless of gender — you should carry condoms with you rather than relying on a partner to be supplied.
4. Learn to recognize STD symptoms
STDs can cause a lot of different symptoms, but some of the most common include:
- Painful urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Unusual discharge from your penis or vagina
- Lumps, blisters, sores or rashes around your genitals or anus
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Itching around your genitals or anus
If you have oral sex, some STDs can cause sores around your lips, tongue, or throat.
5. Get tested
If you’re sexually active, get tested regularly for STDs. How often and which types of tests you need depend on your personal risk factors, like your age, how many sexual partners you have, and other criteria. The CDC offers a helpful guideline here. Our team can also recommend a testing schedule for you based on the CDC guidelines and other sources.
Don’t ignore your symptoms
The symptoms of STDs in their early stages can be really subtle — and all too easy to ignore. Or, maybe you’re putting off testing because you’re embarrassed. Don’t be. STDs are extremely common, and early diagnosis is essential for getting better.
With locations in Germantown, Maryland, and Alexandria and Woodbridge, Virginia , Medical Access makes it easy to get the care you need wherever and whenever you need it. To schedule an STD assessment or treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with our team today.