Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among seasoned adults have dramatically increased in recent years, especially among those who are widowed and divorced. Between 2014 and 2018 — the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics available — the rate of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, including HIV, increased by roughly 107% in people aged 55 years and older.
There has also been increased concern by researchers at the potential rates of elderly populations contracting HIV, which can be swiftly deadly for those with an already weakened immune system.
Even folks who are no longer having sexual relations may still have an STI they were never treated for back in the day, and the side effects of their infections may be easily mistaken for other diseases of aging.
Symptoms or no symptoms
If you’ve had unprotected sex, it is better to be safe than sorry. Many people with STIs do not get symptoms, so it would be wise to get tested even if you feel fine. If you might have contracted an STI, getting tested and treated sooner than later is better.
When someone has an STI, they might not notice the symptoms that can accompany it. Gonorrhea, for example, can be asymptomatic in over 80 percent of women and 10 to 20 percent of men. When a woman does have gonorrhea symptoms, they are so mild and nonspecific and can be easily mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. If gonorrhea remains undetected and undiagnosed for an extended period, the infection will likely spread and affect other body parts. Patients who have carried gonorrhea for a long time are at risk of complications and may begin to experience gonorrhea symptoms months or even years after the infection.
There is no question STIs can affect your overall health, so if you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, get tested:
In both men and women:
- pain when urinating
- itching, burning, genital tingling
- blisters, sores, spots, lumps around genitals or anus
- black powder or tiny white dots in underwear (pubic lice droppings or eggs)
- yellow or green discharge
- smelly discharge
- bleeding after sex
- pain during sex
- lower abdominal pain
- discharge from penis
- irritation of the urethra (the tube that urine comes out of)
Just because you might be experiencing the symptoms mentioned does not mean you have an STI, but it would be worthwhile to investigate and receive treatment if needed. Don’t let your bedroom antics get you in trouble! If you have unprotected sex (God forbid!), the best bet to protect yourself against STIs is to get tested every few months and between new partners.
All about condoms
BTW, you are not too old to get schooled on buying the right condoms to avoid passing on or catching an STI. Use condoms that are made of latex which is a type of rubber. If you suffer from a latex allergy, consider buying condoms made of soft plastics like polyurethane, polyisoprene (a synthetic version of rubber latex), and nitrile. Steer clear of the lambskin type of condoms and other animal membrane ones because they only prevent pregnancy and DO NOT protect you from STIs.
Since erectile dysfunction (ED) is common among older men, don’t worry if you lose your erection while wearing a condom. If this happens, you should change condoms. Just take the condom off, and roll on a new one once your penis is hard again.
Condoms can last quite a while, but they will break down with age, especially if you do not store them properly, like in a cool, dry place and away from sharp objects and direct sunlight. Make sure your condoms DO NOT have holes and have not expired.
Remember, condoms will do the trick if they are used correctly every time you have vaginal intercourse, oral, and anal sex. Make sure the condom stays on from “GO” and right through until the very end!