What STDs can you get from oral sex?

Many people believe the fact that oral sex is the ‘safest’ option for them. However, they do not realize that it is considered as a form of sex. Despite this misconception, engaging in an oral sex activity is quite risky as it puts both the partners at high risk of transmitting a number of different sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Some of the sexually transmitted diseases can be contracted through oral sex just as easily as vaginal or anal sex.

What is oral sex all about?

Oral sex is more like a sexual activity in which the genitalia of a partner are stimulated by the mouth of another partner; fellatio is referred to as mouth-to-penis contact and cunnilingus is called as mouth-to-vagina contact. Sex lingo or slag terminologies for these acts include eating out, going down on, giving head, or blowjobs. Analingus is basically mouth-to-anus contact. Slang terms for analingus include tossing salad or rimming.

Though most people feel that they are knowledgeable about STDs and safe sex, it is crucial to know which infections can be transmitted via unprotected or oral sex. Before you consider giving a ‘blowjob, or ‘going down on’ to your partner without proper protection, it is imperative to understand that there are a number of different sexually transmitted infection that you could be transmitting.

Oral sex is the leading cause of STD transmission

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are not only contracted via anal or vaginal sex- but any skin-to-skin contact with the infected genitals or any other infected part of the body can help pass on an STI or STD on to your sexual partner. This means that oral sex with the help of tongue, lips, or mouth poses the same risks as other sexual activities.

The only approach that helps STD transmission and reduces the risk of catching the infection is to use a dental or genital condom for every sexual activity.

It is important for both partners to learn what STD’s they can contract from oral sex, its symptoms, timely screening, and proper treatment before the infection turns into a life-threatening problem.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, which is also referred to as ‘the clap’, happens to be a common STD caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. According to the CDC, there are more than 820,000 new Gonorrhea cases that emerge each year, with 570,000 affecting people aged from 15 to 24.

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Gonorrhea is an STD that can be transmitted via oral sex, but the infection is more likely to be contracted via vaginal or anal sex. The infection affects the genitals, throat, rectum, and urinary tract.

Gonorrhea when affects the throat often does not show any noticeable symptoms. However, when the signs show up, it is generally a week after the person has been exposed and can consist of a sore throat.

The gonorrhea infection can be easily cured with the use of antibiotics. Nevertheless, there have been instances where gonorrhea has turned out to be drug-resistant not only in the United States but worldwide, too. The CDC recommends individuals retesting in case your symptoms do not go away after you have completed the prescribed course of antibiotics.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is an infection which is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. It is one of the most common bacterial infections in the U.S. among different age groups. Earlier in 2015, the CDC received more than 1.5 million cases of Chlamydial infection.

Chlamydia can be transmitted via oral sex; however, the infection is very likely to be contracted via vaginal or anal sex. The disease affects the rectum, urinary tract, genitals, and throat.

Most chlamydia infections that affect the throat do not carry any symptoms.  When the symptoms appear, they may consist of a sore throat. Chlamydia is not a lifelong disease and can be quickly cured with the help of antibiotics.

Syphilis

Syphilis happens to be a serious infection that is caused due to Treponema pallidum bacterium. It is not as common as other STDs or STIs. According to the CDC, there have been more than 74,000 new cases of syphilis being reported in 2015. Syphilis affects lips, throat, mouth, rectum, anus, and genitals.

Syphilis symptoms show up in stages. For oral syphilis, the very first stage includes sores in or around the throat and mouth. In the second stage, the person may experience swollen lymph nodes, a skin rash, and fever. The later stage of the infection can last for years, and may not show any symptoms or signs. The third stage can affect your nerves, brain, heart, eyes, bones, liver, blood vessels, and even joints.

If syphilis goes untreated, the bacteria will remain in the body and can lead to serious health issues such as significant neurological disorders and organ damage. It may also affect the fetus during pregnancy, causing stillbirth or other complications for the newborn.

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The syphilis infection can be cured with antibiotics and may go away with or even without treatment.

HIV

According to the CDC, more than 1 million new cases of HIV show up in the United States, though the stats are on the decline. HIV commonly spreads through anal and vaginal sex. The risk of transmitting or becoming infected with the HIV via oral sex is quite low.

HIV happens to be a long-life disease and most infected individuals do not show any symptoms for years. People who have been living with HIV virus may initially notice flu-like symptoms.

Till date, no cure has been discovered for the viral infection. Nevertheless, people with the HIV virus can live healthier, longer lives by taking antiviral medications and undergoing proper treatment.

HSV-2

HSV-2 infection is transmitted mainly via sexual intercourse, causing anal or genital herpes. According to the World Health Organization, HSV-2 affects more than 417 million young people than those who are older than 50 worldwide.

HSV-2 infection spreads via oral sex and cases herpes esophagitis in some people, but it is very rare. Some of the common herpes esophagitis symptoms are:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Open sores in the mouth
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Malaise

HSV-2 is a life-long infection that can spread even when you do not show any symptoms. Treatment can certainly reduce and shorten or even help prevent herpes outbreaks.

HPV

HPV is among the most common viral sexually transmitted Infections in the U.S. The CDC estimates that more than 79 million American citizens are infected with HPV at the moment, and that nearly 14 million individuals will become infected with this disease each year.

The virus can transmit via oral sex as often as it does with anal or vaginal sex. HPV affects the genitals, throat, mouth, anus, cervix, and rectum.

In some of the cases, HPV infection does not show any symptoms. Some other types of HPV infection can cause respiratory papillomatosis or laryngeal which affects the throat and mouth. Symptoms include:

  • Vocal changes
  • Warts in the throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty speaking

The other HPV types that infect the throat and mouth do not cause warts, but may cause neck or head cancer.

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HPV infection does not have a cure, but it often disappears within two years of being diagnosed. Any warts that show up in the throat or mouth can be removed via surgery, but they may recur even while undergoing the treatment.

In the year 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine for teenagers and adults aged 11 to 26 years to avert the HPV virus from the widespread high-risk HPV strains. These are the strains generally associated with anal, cervical, neck, and head cancers.

How to get screened for sexually transmitted diseases

For STD testing, the CDC recommends yearly screening, at least for Chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea for all sexually active men who have men as their partners and sexually active women younger than 25 years.

People who have new or multiple sexual partners, and even pregnant women, should also have yearly STD testing. The CDC also recommends that all teenagers and adults ages 14 to 65 years must get themselves screened for HIV at least once in their lifetime.

You can visit a healthcare clinic or your doctor to get tested for HIV or STDs. Most clinics offer low-cost or even free screening options. What you can expect from a test will differ among each disease and infection.

Types of tests available

The different types of test available for STD screening include:

  • Gonorrhea and Chlamydia – Urine sample or swab of the genital area
  • HIV – Blood test or swab from inside your mouth
  • Herpes without any symptoms – Blood test
  • Herpes with symptoms – A blood test to double check and swab of the affected part
  • Syphilis – Sample taken from the sore or blood test
  • HPV – Visual diagnoses of warts in the throat or mouth or Pap test

Conclusion

Although STIs and STDs are more commonly transmitted via sexual intercourse, it is still possible to be infected with these infections during oral sex. Wearing a dental dam or condom properly and every time is the only way to prevent the risk of catching and transmitting STDs. It is imperative for an individual to get screened regularly, even if you have been in a long-term relationship. The sooner you know about your health status, the earlier you will be able to treat the possible infection.