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A Man’s Guide to STD’s: What You Need to Know

By Rebecca Jones

No one wants to talk about STD’s, besides that’s just something that happens to college kids/irresponsible people/other people, right? Wrong. Incidents of STD’s are still alarmingly high in America and just because you wear a condom you are not necessarily protected from them. The best thing you can do is get yourself tested regularly, especially if you are sleeping with multiple partners and then become informed about the most contagious STD’s out there and what you can do to avoid, detect and treat each one.

A Guide to the 6 Most Common STD’s

Chlamydia

The CDC estimates that annually almost 3 million people will contract this bacterial infection. Though it is easily cleared up with a round of oral antibiotics nearly half of all cases go untreated. Since Chlamydia is spread through secretions using a condom will greatly reduce your chances of infection but keep in mind that condoms have an 11% failure rate so if you have multiple partners it is important that you get tested at least annually.

Symptoms: burning sensation during urination, penile discharge and if left untreated pain, fever and in rare instances sterility

Gonorrhea

Second only to Chlamydia as the most reported infectious disease, it is estimated that 750,000 cases occur annually but like Chlamydia only about half of all cases are reported and properly treated. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection spread through bodily secretions so it can be cured with an antibiotic.

Symptoms:  discharge from and redness around the urethra, frequent and painful urination

Syphilis

That’s right, syphilis is back, there has been a reemergence in cases over the last decade and though it is treatable in its early stages, usually when little sores break out on the skin, prolonged illness can have devastating consequences. Contact with these sores can spread the disease so while wearing a condom can cut down on your chance of contracting syphilis it cannot protect you completely. Syphilis is another bacterial infection so as long as it is caught early it can be treated with the antibiotic penicillin.

Symptoms: early symptoms include sores and ulcers which can turn to large blotches or blisters on the arms, palms, legs, soles of feet and torso as the disease progresses. In its second stage white patches can also form inside mucus membranes. The real damage occurs in its final stages; fever, headache, sore throat, weight loss and fatigue can give way to actual brain and nerve damage as well as heart and lung problems.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Also called genital warts HPV is often thought of as a woman’s STD but since men act as carriers and infections are extremely common it is imperative that men get tested for it too. HPV is contracted through skin to skin contact so while a condom can help it is by no means a sure bet. While right now vaccines are only available for women ages 9-26 it is believed that vaccines will be made available for men in the near future. HPV is not always accompanied by visible warts but when it is they can be treated with a topical medication or your doctor can remove the growths by surgically freezing them.

Symptoms: warts or rough pink growth around the tip of the penis, the anus or the urethra opening. Just remember that HPV is not always accompanied by visible symptoms so an annual STD test is critical in preventing the further spread of the virus.

Genital Herpes

This is one of the scarier STD’s because there is no cure. Wearing a condom can reduce your risk but since skin to skin contact spreads the disease condoms aren’t 100%. It is estimated that 50 million people in this country alone have genital herpes. While there is no cure antiviral medications can help prevent outbreaks.

Symptoms: soreness, itching and burning around genitals, swollen glands, small ulcers or blisters , headache and fever.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

While we’ve grown complacent about HIV over the last decade it continues to kill at epidemic proportions. 25 million deaths have all ready been attributed to AIDS and HIV and over 50,000 new cases are contracted each year. Of these cases 75% are men so it is extremely important to remain vigilant. HIV weakens the immune system and kills white blood cells leaving the body vulnerable to bacteria and infections. When HIV has killed enough white blood cells a person develops full blown AIDS. While there is no cure for HIV or AIDS great advances have been made in treatments that boost the immune system and increase white blood cell counts. HIV can be contracted through any exchange of bodily fluids so always use a condom even when engaging in oral sex.

Symptoms: In the beginning there are no symptoms but eventually HIV will produce flu like feelings as the disease progresses skin lesions, ulcers around the mouth and swollen lymph nodes occur. Ultimately HIV gives way to AID which is fatal.

One of the best ways to protect yourself against STD’s is to be informed. Taking preventative measures and getting tested at least once year can help bring this epidemic under control once and for all.

 

 

 




Hepatitis: What You Need to Know

By Rebecca Jones

Considering that it is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable death it is no wonder that the Institute of Medicine is demanding that the U.S. raise public awareness of the dangers of contracting hepatitis. In this country alone nearly 5 million people are infected with either hepatitis B or C and of the 1 -50 people infected the most frightening thing is that most do not even know they have it. The best way to protect yourself from this invisible killer is to understand how hepatitis is spread and learn what measures you can take to keep you and your family safe. Read on to learn about the many varieties of hepatitis and what you can do to help stop this epidemic.

What is Hepatitis

Hepatitis itself is defined by an inflammation of the liver that can range from mild flu-like symptoms to chronic illness and liver failure.  The liver is responsible for removing toxins from our blood, when it becomes inflamed the body is no longer able to metabolize not only drugs and alcohol but the naturally occurring toxins produced by the body itself.  Even though all types of hepatitis are preventable and treatable symptoms usually do not appear until the disease is advanced and chronic liver disease or liver cancer are present. This year it is expected that 15,000 Americans will die of hepatitis and that nearly half of all liver transplants will be performed because of the effects of the untreated virus.

The most common types of hepatitis are viral in nature. Although types A, B, C, D, and E are all viral infections they are not spread in the same way. Hepatitis B and C are by far the most prevalent of all varieties and the most deadly. Hepatitis C spreads only through blood contact, hepatitis B can be transmitted through the exchange of any bodily fluid which can occur through unprotected sex, contaminated tattoo instruments or sharing of hypodermic needles. Hepatitis A can be contracted by consuming contaminated food or water, raw shellfish from contaminated water is one source in particular that needs to be avoided. While most people are able to fight off and recover from hepatitis those who contract hepatitis C are at a greater risk of the disease becoming chronic and ultimately deadly. Though far less common hepatitis can also be contracted from exposure to toxins such as excessive use of drugs and alcohol or present as an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the liver without a virus present.

Hepatitis Symptoms

Though it is hard to recognize hepatitis from it’s symptoms alone there are some that you should watch out for:

  • Flu like symptoms including fever, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and joint pain
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark colored urine
  • Change in appearance of stool

Your doctor can administer a hepatitis blood test that will ultimately be able to confirm whether this virus is causing your symptoms.

Protecting Yourself

Despite the ever increasing prevalence of hepatitis there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

  • Always practice safe sex
  • Never share razors, needles or tooth brushes
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B
  • Wash hands frequently
  • If you believe you are at risk seek early diagnosis and treatment

As public awareness of this growing threat increases so does funding for ongoing research, already there are many treatments and vaccinations available for people who have or are at risk of contracting hepatitis. By staying informed and being proactive about your health you can help stop the rise of hepatitis in it’s tracks.

 

 

 




Getting Tested for STDs – A Must for the Sexually Active

By EmilyM

No one likes those three scary letters – STD – let alone the more frightening words they represent.

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are not the type of thing you can just ignore and hope they’ll go away, nor are they a case where “ignorance is bliss,” applies. Fortunately though, there are many different types of STDs and STIs that are completely curable or can be managed once they are properly diagnosed.

How do I know if I should be Tested for STDs?
Most likely, if you are asking this question, the answer is yes, you should get tested. Any time you are sexually active, you run the risk of being exposed to an STD or STI. While many can be avoided through safe sex practices ( i.e. using a condom) accidents happen, condoms do break from time to time or may be abandoned altogether. Getting tested for STDs is an imperative part of maintaining and managing your overall health and wellness.

STD statistics (The latest from a 2008 CDC Report)
*The 2 most commonly reported infectious diseases are chlamydia and gonorrhea – In 2008, there were over 1.5 million cases of both reported to the CDC. Young women are most at risk for these diseases.

*Neither of these STDs (chlamydia or gonorrhea) typically have any warning signs or signals but, if left undetected, they can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility and other reproductive difficulties.

*CDC estimates that undiagnosed and untreated STDs cause at least 24,000 women in the United States each year to become infertile. As a result, CDC also recommend that women under 26 receive annual screenings, along with women who over 26 who have multiple sexual partners or engage in other risky behavior.

*There are an estimated 1 million people currenlty infected with HIV in the United States, one in 5 of these people is currently unaware that they are infected.

* According to CDC, 80% of young HIV-infected men who have sex with men do not know their infection status.

Okay – So Now What?
The first step in knowing your status is getting tested – if you are entering into a committed relationship, believe you may have had sex with someone who is infected or have not discussed STD status with any of your previous partners, it’s a wise decision to get tested. While for some it is embarrassing and others simply would rather not know, getting tested for STDs is an important part of keeping yourself and your partner, or future partner, healthy and happy.

Many people find that it is easier to book their STD lab testing appointments online. You can take care of it all in one place and find the nearest LabCorp location near you.

If you are nervous the day of your appointment, many find it is helpful to go with a friend or significant other for moral support. Once you know your status you can either begin receiving treatment or, if it turns out you have no STDs, you can continue to practice safe measures to keep it that way.





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