Sexually transmitted infections may be passed through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact. Male symptoms of an STI can include itching, rashes, unusual discharge, and pain. However, many sexually transmitted infections display no symptoms at all, making it all the more important to practice safe sex so that infection is not passed on to a partner.

Prevention for Men

Some STIs are more easily transmitted via anal intercourse and therefore are more commonly found among men who have male sexual partners. Both straight and gay men should be aware of their sexual health, and should take certain preventive measures to avoid catching or transmitting STIs:

Regular Testing

If you are not in a long-term monogamous relationship, getting tested every year, or before you engage in sex with a new partner, is highly recommended.

Use Condoms

Whether it’s for vaginal, anal, or oral sex, a condom can help protect you and your partner. Avoid “natural” condoms, which do not offer protection against STIs. Instead, use latex (or polyurethane in the case of a latex sensitivity), and be sure to use according to the instructions on the box. Spermicides and other forms of contraception may protect against pregnancy but they do not protect against STIs.

Communicate

Honest communication with both your doctor and your partner about sexual history is essential.

Symptoms Men Should Look For

Men should also be aware of potential STI symptoms so that they can seek medical advice if necessary. Some of the most common symptoms are:

Changes in Urination

Any pain or burning sensation during urination, the need to pee more frequently, or the presence of blood in the urine can indicate an STI. Gonorrhea often presents in men as a burning pain when urinating.

Abnormal Discharge from the Penis

Let’s be honest, guys know what’s normal and what isn’t. Any discharge that is yellow or green, or that smells odd, can be symptom of a problem.

Bumps or Sores on the Penis

Tiny bumps, blisters, or sores on the penis can be a sign of herpes, genital warts, or molluscum contagiosum. Since they typically go away after a week or so, it can be easy to dismiss them. If they are caused by an STI, they’ll be back. A rarer problem is a chancroid, a bacterial infection that can cause open ulcers. While a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics, there is no cure for herpes. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to help lessen outbreaks, and can advise on how to best avoid spreading the virus.

What can easily be mistaken as a simple pimple or a kidney stone might be an indicator of a more serious infection.

There is no foolproof method to protect against STIs other than through abstinence. By being aware of changes in one’s body and by practicing safe sex, men can protect themselves and their partners, making the transmission of an infection far less likely.