STIs, STDs and Erectile Dysfunction
Firstly, it is important to distinguish that STI’s and STD’s may have a lot in common with one another, including some similar symptoms, but they are fundamentally different.
An STI is a sexually transmitted infection, which means the individual has an infection, but it hasn’t developed into a disease. So, for example an individual who has chlamydia or gonorrhoea has an infection, STI, but if this were to develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), then they would have an STD.
Basically, the infection is often the warning, the first step of a disease. Disease occurs when the bacteria or virus enters the body and starts multiplying. Medically speaking, all STDs start out as STIs.
Not all STIs carry symptoms, so many people can be carrying an infection without knowing it. If you have any concerns about your sexual health, it is worth getting tested. It is far easier to treat an STI in the early stages before it has developed into an STD.
Symptoms of chlamydia include:
- pain when urinating
- burning and itching around the penis opening
- small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip
- painful and swollen testicles
Your doctor can perform a few different tests, including a swab sample from the urethra or a urine sample, if you are worried you may have chlamydia.
Treatment for chlamydia will be an oral antibiotic such as azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline. Your partner will need to be treated as well to prevent reinfection and stopping it turning into a disease.
Your infection should clear up within a couple of weeks and you must make sure that you finish the full course of antibiotics. It is advised that you are re-tested three months after the treatment has finished to ensure the infection is cured. You and your partner should abstain from sexual intercourse until the disease has fully cleared up.
If chlamydia is left untreated it can cause a condition called non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) which is an infection of the urethra, epididymitis which is and infection of the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm away from your testes), or proctitis, which is an inflammation of the rectum.
How does chlamydia cause erectile dysfunction?
If chlamydia enters the genital tract, over time it can spread to nearby organs. So, for example, a man who has not treated the infection who goes on to get NGU is at risk of the chlamydia infecting the prostate gland.
An infected prostate gland can lead to a complication called prostatitis which in turn may lead to ED. Prostatitis is a condition where the prostate gland has become inflamed or infected due to infection. This then may restrict blood flow to the penis, which will make both getting and maintaining an erection very difficult.
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts is a common STI that can be passed on through vaginal, anal and occasionally oral sex.
Symptoms of genital warts are:
- painless growths or lumps around your penis or anus
- itching or bleeding from your penis or anus
- persistent abnormal flow of urine
If your sexual partner has genital warts, even if you have no symptoms, still go and get checked at a clinic.
Genital warts are passed on through skin to skin contact, vaginal and anal sex, sharing sex toys and rarely oral sex. You cannot get genital warts from kissing or sharing towels, sheets, toilets seats and cups etc.
Your doctor will assess the treatment you require. Treatments for genital warts are:
- Cream or liquid used a few times a week for several weeks that you can apply to the warts directly. In some instances, you may need to go to the clinic and have a doctor or nurse apply it.
- Genital warts can be surgically removed by cutting, burning or laser removal.
- Warts can also be frozen by your doctor or nurse every week for 4 weeks.
It can take weeks or months for the treatment to work and the warts may come back. There is no cure for genital warts, but your body may clear the virus over time.
Genital Warts and ED
Genital warts have been associated with sexual dysfunction, and a leading cause of depression and anxiety. The main cause of ED in men who have genital warts is due to how they feel. Having unsightly cauliflower shaped lumps can be embarrassing and off-putting, which is usually where the issue of poor sexual performance stems from.
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores, or blisters, but a lot who are infected don’t realise they have the condition as they don’t have any symptoms or may confuse symptoms they are suffering with the flu. There is no cure for genital herpes, however, antiviral medications may help manage the severity of outbreaks.
As this is a chronic infection, genital herpes can be psychologically distressing for both the men and women who are infected. As with genital warts, this psychological stress can play a significantly negative role in sexual activity.
Herpes is most commonly passed through unprotected sexual intercourse. It is most common in 20 to 24 year old’s who have multiple sexual partners. To prevent contracting genital herpes, it is advisable to always wear a condom.
How Genital Herpes can cause ED
There is not one definable reason for herpes to be responsible for causing erectile dysfunction, but there are several possible links.
One cause is thought to be that the infection causes inflammation that links to heart disease. The elevated inflammatory markers have been recorded in patients who struggle to get and maintain an erection.
Another theory is that the herpes infection could have an impact on the muscles of the penis which causes problems with the ability to get an erection.
Herpes may also cause a build up of fats in the arteries, which will affect the blood flow to the penis, again essential to getting an erection.
Adverse Effects of STDs and STIs
While there are many more sexually transmitted diseases and infections that are mentioned here, many have a similar pattern to the ones mentioned.
STDs will either be caused by a bacteria, parasite, yeast or virus infection. There are over 20 different STDs that can affect men and women. Antibiotics can be used to treat bacteria, yeast and parasite related STDs. While medicines may often help to keep the disease under control, but there is no cure for STDs caused through a viral infection.
Diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Syphilis carry far greater risks than erectile dysfunction, although due to the way they affect muscles, blood flow, and how medications react to the system, this can also be a concern
Crabs don’t cause ED, but can be very uncomfortable and highly irritating to suffer from, which may put you off any sexual activity. It is also highly advisable to abstain from sex until treatment has been completed and the parasites have been eradicated.
Suffering from an STI or STD can be uncomfortable, painful or just plain embarrassing. This will inevitably have an impact on your desire to participate in sexual activities.
While ED medication such as Sildenafil or Tadalafil can help with treating your ED, if you are concerned that it may be because of an STI, then you should speak to your doctor and get a diagnosis and any necessary treatment.