Top 8 STDs Common Among Seniors
You might raise an eyebrow around the idea that seniors contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is on the rise, but it is in fact true.
Older adults are back on the dating scene, due to an increase in divorce rates for this age group, as well as some becoming single after losing a spouse. For these reasons, seniors’ sexual activity is often increased which places them at high risk for STDs.
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A very common STD among all age groups is chlamydia. However, this is on the rise among seniors. As per a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases for the condition have almost doubled for the 55- to 64-year-old age group from 2012 to 2016.
Caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria, the condition can affect the urethra, cervix, rectum, eyes, and throat. Sometimes, symptoms are so mild that they are mistaken for another condition.
Having said that, some signs that both females and males can experience include:
- Burning sensation or pain while peeing;
- Lower stomach pain;
- Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse;
- Bleeding between periods;
- Abnormal vaginal discharge that can be yellowish with strong smell;
- Tender or swollen testicles for males;
- Water-like/milky discharge or pus from the penis, and;
- Bleeding and/or discharge and pain around the anus.
7. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a chronic condition that has no cure. The illness attacks a person’s immune system. Eventually, it develops into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
According to the CDC, those aged 50+ accounted for 17 percent of new HIV cases across America in 2016. This demographic totaled close to 6,900 individuals affected by HIV.
Patients experience flu-like signs and symptoms of the illness, which include:
- Night sweats;
- Muscle aches;
- Sore throat;
- Swollen lymph nodes, and;
- Ulcers or sores in and around the mouth area.
Caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, this STD can be spread via unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. As per a report conducted by the CDC, gonorrhea cases more than doubled for the 55+ age group between 2012 and 2016.
For many, the infection results in no symptoms. However, individuals that do experience symptoms of gonorrhea can be affected in several areas of the body. For both men and women, signs of gonorrhea can manifest in the throat, rectum, joints, and eyes.
Some common signs of gonorrhea are:
- Painful urination;
- Puss discharge out of the tip of the penis;
- Swelling or pain in one testicle;
- Increased vaginal discharge;
- Bleeding between periods, potentially after vaginal sex, and;
- Painful intercourse and pelvic or abdominal pain for females.
This STD is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria. Additionally, syphilis can be contracted via a blood transfusion, sharing unclean needles, breastfeeding, or an organ transplant.
In 2015, 4,848 cases of syphilis were reported in the U.S. This was an increase from just over 3,100 in 2012.
Some signs and symptoms include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes close to the groin region;
- Small, painless sores “hidden” in the vagina or rectum;
- A skin rash with small reddish-brown sores;
- Sores may develop in the anus, vagina, or mouth, and;
4. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
As the most common condition within the STD umbrella, males and females alike that partake in unprotected sex are vulnerable to HPV. This illness can result in genital warts and cancers of the vulva and cervix.
For those whose HPV results in genital warts, harmless growths pop up on the surface of one’s vagina, vulva, cervix, scrotum, penis, or anus. These growths become uncomfortable or itchy.
On the other hand, those who develop cancer may not see signs of the condition until further down the line. This characteristic of HPV makes regular checkups extremely necessary.
3. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
This STD falls under two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is primarily linked with oral infection, while HSV-2 is generally linked with genital infection.
While there is no cure to the condition, herpes is not a life-threatening condition. While it can be uncomfortable, it does not affect a person’s immune system and is not considered a “dangerous” condition.
The main symptom of the condition appears in the form of a blister or cluster of blisters. The blister(s) form in and around the affected region, be it the genitals, rectum, or mouth.
Worldwide, trichomoniasis is thought to be the most common non-viral STD. This condition tends to occur to those who have multiple sex partners. In fact, according to a 2017 report, the prevalence of the condition rises with the number of partners — and age when it comes to African American females.
The common signs and symptoms of this STD include:
- Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant smell that appears to be gray, green, white, or yellow;
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting;
- Female genitals might appear to be red or swelling, and may feel burning or itchy;
- Females could experience pain during sex and while peeing;
- Males experience urethral discharge, with a burning feeling after ejaculation or urination, and;
- Both sexes experience the need to pee more frequently.
1. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a chronic and highly contagious virus that attacks one’s liver. Due to the symptoms and infection of hepatitis B, patients can suffer from complications and even death.
Signs of the condition can appear anywhere from 45 days to six months after exposure. This time span is known as the “incubation period” for the illness.
Some common signs of the illness are:
- Dark urine;
- Abdominal pain;
- Joint pain;
- Loss of appetite;
- Nausea and vomiting, and;
- Yellowing of skin and the whites of eyes.
Why are STDs on the rise within seniors?
One reason is that many individuals don’t talk to their doctor about it because they are reluctant to do so. Additionally, age and immune system health are factors in the rise of STDs among seniors.
Medications like sildenafil (Viagra) make it that much easier to engage in sex at older ages. Seniors are also not accustomed to thinking about STDs due to the generation they grew up in.
Some STD prevention tips for seniors include:
- Practice Safe Sex: Using condoms is the best method to ensure you are protecting yourself before engaging in sexual activity.
- Regular Testing and Screening: Get tested and screened annually for STDs, especially if you have new and multiple partners.
- Talk to Your Doctor: Your physician will be able to provide advice around practicing safe sex and can offer any screenings needed to detect an issue before any complications arise. As with any illness, early diagnosis is key to any successful treatment plan.
- Have the “Talk”: If you are an adult with a senior parent back on the dating scene, don’t be afraid to have that “talk” with them. Being well out of their reproductive years, your senior parent may not be aware of any STD risks involved with being sexually active.
Awareness is Important!
Intimacy is important to every adult, regardless of age. However, the risks around STDs are also prevalent for anyone engaging in sexual activity.
STD education, awareness, and preventative measures are key for seniors to ensure they stay happy and healthy, well into their golden years!