Men get accused of complaining too vocally when they have a minor ailment (hence the term “man cold”) but they may be too closed-lipped when it comes to their sexual health. And often, men’s private parts don’t get the same level of medical attention that women’s do — women need to think about pregnancy (and preventing it), and start getting screened for cervical cancer at 21, so talking about sexual health with a provider may be more routine for them.
But there are certain things every guy should discuss with his healthcare provider to make sure he’s taking good care of himself and looking out for his partners. Men: Check this checklist of the important sexual health topics to speak up about at your next medical appointment. (And if you aren’t a man, but love one, send this to him as a reminder to take care of himself!).
Guys, even if you use condoms (and especially if you don’t always) you should get tested for sexually transmitted infections regularly. Many sexually transmitted infections don’t have symptoms, and can lead to health problems for both you and your partners. Get tested at least once a year, and more often if you have new partners with uncertain STI status. You can use an STI Home Test Kit to check for possible infections including HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
If you think you may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it’s important to see a medical professional as soon as possible. In many cases, there are simple and effective treatments available that can help to clear the infection and prevent transmission to sexual partners.
Some of the common symptoms of STIs include:
- Bumps, blisters, warts, or sores in the genital or anal area
- Pain or itching around the genitals, buttocks, or inner thighs
- Pain or burning with urination
- Discharge from the penis
- Painful, swollen testicles
- Anal itching
Remember that even if you have a partner who uses reliable contraception — such as birth control pills, like Lutera or Tri-Sprintec, or an IUD — these forms of birth control don’t protect against STIs. Condoms do help reduce the risk of getting certain STIs, but they do not provide 100% protection.
Protecting against STIs is important, but you may want to be especially cautious if you’re at an increased risk for HIV. Safe sex is particularly important for men who may be more likely to contract the virus, including:
- Men who have anal sex
- Men who already have other STIs
- Men who share needles or syringes when using intravenous drugs
Your medical provider can provide more information about the best safe sex practices for preventing HIV, like proper condom use. In addition, some men may be advised to take PrEP, a daily pill that is up to 99% effective at preventing HIV. Taking PrEP is sort of like taking birth control, but instead of reducing the risk of pregnancy, you’re reducing the risk of getting HIV.
If you didn’t receive immunization for the Human papillomavirus (HPV) in your tweens or early teens (when it is recommended for both boys and girls) you should ask your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. It protects against high-risk strains of the virus which can cause anal, penile, or throat cancer in men — there aren’t HPV tests for men or other types of screening for these cancers, so the HPV vaccine is important protection. Recommendations for the HPV vaccine include:
- Vaccination at ages 11 or 12 for boys and girls.
- Catch-up vaccinations for all people through age 26 who have not previously received the full vaccination dosage.
- Men up to age 45 may receive the vaccine if they haven’t already — if you’re between 26 and 45 and haven’t been immunized against HPV, discuss it with your doctor.
Even if you’ve been sexually active for years and think you’ve already been exposed to HPV it’s not too late — because there are multiple high-risk strains of HPV the vaccine will protect you from any you haven’t been exposed to yet.
If something seems out of the ordinary, it may be worth talking to your doctor about. Sometimes, an unusual symptom can be an indicator of a more serious problem, so it’s important to know what to watch for.
If you’re having issues when you pee, it could be due to a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urinary tract. This rarely happens from vaginal intercourse, but having anal sex does increase your risk of getting an infection. Common symptoms of UTIs include:
- A frequent or sudden urge to urinate
- Pain with urination
- Urine leakage
- Slow urine stream
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Pain in the central lower abdomen
Other issues with urination can be caused by an enlarged prostate. This often results in symptoms like difficulty starting or maintaining a urine stream and a weak urine stream.
Besides urination issues, be sure to watch for any changes to your testicles. Some changes, like scrotal masses, could be linked to cancer or other serious health problems. Tell your doctor if you develop a lump, swelling, tenderness, or pain in your testicles.
It’s not uncommon for men to have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection once in a while. However, if you are experiencing regular issues with erectile dysfunction or notice the problem getting worse, ask your doctor about possible treatments.
In some cases, there’s an underlying health issue linked to erectile dysfunction, such as:
- Use of certain prescription medications, like antidepressants, medicine for high blood pressure, or pain medications
- Alcohol or tobacco use
Treating an underlying cause of ED may solve the problem. There are also medications like Viagra and Cialis which may help with maintaining an erection.
While physical symptoms are usually the main topic of discussion at your doctor’s appointments, don’t forget that you can also share any emotional symptoms that have been troubling you. Your mental health and sexual health are closely related, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your emotional state, such as:
- Stigma linked to STIs or sexual preferences
- Worries about coming out to friends and family
- Substance abuse
- Depression, stress, or anxiety
- Physical, verbal, or emotional abuse
Your medical care provider can help by evaluating your mental health and discussing possible treatments. In addition, you can ask for a referral for a specialist or therapist to provide further support for your emotional well-being.
Good sexual health is essential to overall physical and mental health, and vice versa. To savor a healthy sex life, see a healthcare provider regularly and make a point to talk, honestly and openly, about these subjects and any other sexual health topics on your mind.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.