Tinder, Grindr and GROWLr may be bad for your health. The ease of these hook-up apps is contributing to sexually transmitted diseases, not just in young folks but baby boomers as well. Anonymous, no-strings-attached sex may be bad for your health. Of course these apps aren’t the only thing at work, but here is what you need to know about what’s happening now in the U.S.
1. Syphilis. An STD that was all but wiped out is now coming back at alarming rates. In fact, Alaska just reported what they are calling a syphilis outbreak with a 60 percent increase in syphilis cases from 2012 to 2013. Other states are right behind Alaska.
2. HIV. Also on the rise and not just in young folks. The CDC has shown that the number of new HIV infections is growing faster in individuals over 50 than in people 40 years and under. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults age 15 to 65 years be tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
3. Genital warts/Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Let’s be honest, HPV infection is more of a hassle for women and certainly more dangerous. HPV, while it clears in approx 70% of women on its own, can hang around causing atypical cervical cells which requires tight monitoring and often procedures like colposcopy (cervical and vaginal screening) and cervical biopsies. It can be a real bummer. Unless a male partner has warts, there is no way to screen men for the human papilloma virus (HPV). In women it’s easy to do HPV DNA testing as part of the pap smear. Your Tinder partner just might not disclose this.
4. Herpes. Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV) is the most common sexually transmitted genital ulcer (sore) disease in both men and women. Oral, genital or anal ulcers from HSV typically lead to major emotional distress because unlike bacterial infections, this viral infection stays with you for life. Some baby boomers made it through their young lives only to be nailed with it now. There are antiviral medications to shorten or prevent outbreaks of genital sores and blisters, but there is no cure.
5. Chlamydia. Phew, at least this is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that is treatable with antibiotics, but chlamydia cases are also on the rise in the U.S. In fact, there has been a three-fold jump in cases in 10 years, affecting adults over 45 as well. You may or may not have symptoms and again, urine chlamydia cultures are available and in women you can do a test on your pap smear sample. Also know this is a “reportable” illness to the state health department so if you are diagnosed with chlamydia you will receive a letter in the mail from the health department verifying you have been treated . . . and some folks have gotten in to trouble with that letter, if you know what I mean.
6. Urethritis in men. A common STD in middle-aged men is urethritis, also on the rise. Common offenders that cause urethritis are gonorrhea, chlamydia, ureaplasma and mycoplasma. Symptoms include penile discharge and burning with urination. The good news is that testing is much easier now and only a urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea is required instead of the dreaded urethral swab.
7. Trichomoniasis. This is a sexually transmitted parasite that can infect both men and women. Most men and women who are infected with trichomoniasis do not have any symptoms. Samples of discharge or urine can be tested for trich and it is easily treated with a single dose of an antibiotic.
8. Gonorrhea. Another common STD on the rise is gonorrhea which will cause painful urination and discharge in men and women and can also do throat infection (if you are exposed from oral sex). An easy urine test for men and women can detect gonorrhea, or screening for both gonorrhea and chlamydia can be done on a pap smear sample in women.
You are in our primary care offices with these issues at higher numbers than before and we are here to help but please watch it. Wrap it up.