Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Information for Men

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 3, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on September 3, 2014

Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Men

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect more than 19 million people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, men may not know they are infected. This is because many infected men have no symptoms. That doesn’t mean that STDs aren’t affecting their health, however.

Not all STDs have symptoms. When STD symptoms do occur in men, they can include:

  • pain or burning during urination
  • a need to urinate more frequently
  • pain during ejaculation
  • abnormal discharge from the penis, particularly colored or foul-smelling discharge
  • bumps, blisters, or sores on the penis or genitals

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Prevention for Men

STDs can affect any man who is sexually active. They can occur at any age. They affect men of every race and sexual orientation. Fortunately, many STDs are highly preventable.

Abstinence is the only foolproof method to protect against STDs. However, by being aware of changes in their bodies and practicing safer sex, men can protect themselves and their partners. Consistently practicing safer sex makes the transmission of an infection less likely.

STDs can be transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It’s important to practice safer sex during all of these activities. Condoms can be used for vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Dental dams and other barriers can be used for any type of oral sex.

Many men believe that oral sex is risk-free. However, numerous STDs can be transmitted during oral sex including:

  • syphilis
  • herpes
  • gonorrhea

Certain STDs are spread more easily during anal sex. These STDs may be more common in men who have sex with men. However, men of all sexual orientations should take good care of their sexual health. This doesn’t just mean always having safer sex. Men should also be regularly tested for STDs.

Getting Tested for STDs

Regular STD testing is a good idea for any man who is not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship. Although safer sex is very good at reducing STD transmission, it’s not perfect. Regular testing is the best way to take charge of your sexual health.

It’s important to ask your doctor for STD testing. Many men may assume that their doctors screen them for STDs at their annual physicals. However, that isn’t true. If you don’t ask for STD testing, you will probably not be tested. Even if your doctor does test you, you may not be given every test you want or need. It’s very important to ask your doctor exactly what you are being tested for and why.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common STD that affects more than half of sexually active men and women. While women can get a Pap smear and HPV test, there is currently no test for HPV for men. Some types of HPV cause no symptoms, while others cause genital warts. Talk with your doctor if you notice any bumps or warts.

Common STDs that you may want to be tested for include:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • hepatitis
  • herpes
  • HIV
  • syphilis

In order to determine what STD tests you need, you should talk to your doctor honestly about your sexual risk. Tell your doctor if you think you might have been exposed to an STD or are just coming in for preventive screening.

It’s also a good idea to mention if you practice receptive anal sex. Anal sex can put you at risk of certain STDs that require special testing. For example, an anal Pap smear can be used to test for signs of HPV-related anal cancers.

Finally, tell your doctor if you reliably practice safe sex for oral, anal, and vaginal sex. This can help your doctor assess your risk for various infections.

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