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Sexually Transmitted Diseases Update: The latest CDC reports shows that middle-aged and older adults are increasingly at risk for STDs.

Whether you're searching for one special love or more casual romantic encounters, social media and dating apps have made it easier to find new partners. It's just one reason why STDs are on the rise. UCLA Medical Center's infectious disease expert Jeffrey Klausner, MD, MPH, also points to defunded public sexual health programs, not enough physician-initiated conversations about sex and the clinical consequences of STDs, and ironically, effective treatments for the diseases.

"Twenty years ago, there was a lot of awareness about STDs," says Dr. Klausner. "But now there are successful treatments even for HIV, so there's less fear about having sex."

Also in the mix is the immune system, which isn't as resilient as people get older, making it harder to fight off infections.

STD Risks and Rates

STDs have increased across all age groups, with significant increases among middle-aged and older adults. For people age 55 to 64, reports of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea in women can cause painful pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may require more serious treatment, such as intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization. Men can experience painful urination and increased risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. If no symptoms are present, these STDs can still cause damage later, such as PID in women and painful, swollen testicles in men.

The symptoms of syphilis are more obvious and include skin sores and rashes, and sometimes fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands and fatigue. Without treatment, syphilis can spread to the brain, nervous system, or eye, leading to severe headaches, difficultly coordinating muscle movements, blindness, and dementia.

Genital herpes is an STD caused by two types of viruses called herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). It's estimated that one in six people between the ages of 14 to 49 has genital herpes, and it can lie dormant for years. Like the familiar cold sore, genital herpes results in painful sores in the genital area. Infection can spread through sexual contact with someone who has the disease, even if there is no visible sore present. A condom can help provide protection, but because sores can be in areas not covered by a condom, the disease can still be spread. Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV1, but it can be spread to the genitals through oral sex. If you have herpes, anti-herpes medications reduce the risk of spreading the disease to others.

MG: An Emerging STD

Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) is a relatively newly identified STD bacterium. First isolated in the 1980s, it can infect men and women. The bacterium is responsible for more STDs than gonorrhea and is the second-most prevalent STD next to chlamydia. Experts say the prevalence is concerning because most people infected with it are unaware. Symptoms may mimic other more common diseases or be asymptomatic. Left untreated, it can cause such health problems as urethritis in men and cervicitis in women. The infection is resistant to the antibiotics most commonly used to treat other STDs. Patients whose infections don't clear after a standard course of antibiotics, or who have persistent urethritis or cervicitis, should be tested for MG. While there is not yet an approved FDA test, a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) that analyzes urine is the preferred technique.

The Good News

If all this makes you want to lead a chaste life, don't be forlorn; just be smart. Condoms are still considered the best choice for reducing risk of STDs, especially if you have new or multiple partners. Like many health problems, early diagnosis makes treatment easier and more successful.

Get tested to know where you stand now, and ask that your partners do the same. Dr. Klausner says at-home test kits, such as those available through MyLabBox.com, can be just as reliable as those from the doctor's office. If you have an STD, see your doctor immediately to get the right antibiotics. One course typically clears the infection, especially when caught early.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

* Use condoms to reduce the risk of STDs.

* Know STD symptoms can mimic other diseases.

* Get tested annually if you have new partners.

* Use at-home STD kits.

* Read Dr. Klausner's new book Sex, Lies and STDs.
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Title Annotation:HEALTHY AGING
Publication:Healthy Years
Date:Aug 1, 2018
Words:718
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