Oral Sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) mainly spread through sexual activities (including oral sex) with an infected individual. Using one’s oral cavity (mouth, tongue, lips) on the genitals of another person for sexual pleasure is known as oral sex. Oral sex is very common among sexually active couples and is very normal and healthy otherwise. However, as with other forms of sex, there is risk of transmission of infections through oral sex, too. 

The studies indicate the risk of transmission of HIV is extremely low through oral sex, but transmission of other sexually transmitted infections is common. This is more so with repeated exposures with multiple partners or sex workers. Almost all STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HPV and hepatitis B and C are reported to have been spread through oral sex.

Fortunately most of these are easy to manage with early detection. All you need to do is to get screened regularly for STIs, if you are sexually active or have multiple partners.

 If you had a potential exposure with a person whose STI status is not known or you observe any symptoms of STIs, the first thing to do is “not to panic”

Remember, almost all STIs can be managed with great results, if detected early.

Risk factors:

  • Multiple sex partners
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Unprotected sex
  • Underlying diseases that lowers one’s immunity

Signs and Symptoms:

The STIs can be very silent. The organisms can multiply in the body without any signs or symptoms for weeks to months.

Hence, one should not solely rely on development of symptoms to get tested or seek advice from a healthcare professional.

The most common symptoms are

  • Abnormal discharge from the genitals
  • Sores on the genitals or oral cavity
  • Warts on the genitals or around the mouth
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Rash on the trunk, palms or soles
  • Itching or pain in the genitals
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Enlarged lymph glands
  • Swelling testicles

Diagnosis:

Blood, urine or swab tests of the sores or abnormal discharges suffice for the diagnosis of STIs. In rare cases, tissue biopsy or other extensive diagnostic tools may be employed.

Testing of both the partners is essential to completely rule out the possibility of STI/STD transmission.

Treatment:

Majority of STIs are easily curable with the help of medications like anti-biotics and anti-virals.

If left untreated, STIs can cause complications like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer in the females or epididymitis (inflammation of the ducts present behind the testicles) in the males. Hepatitis B and C can lead to liver disorders and so on.

Prevention:

  • Use a condom or a dental dam for every act. In case of unavailability of a dental dam, a condom square made by cutting the condom into a square can be used as a barrier between the mouth and the vagina.
  • Try to check the STI status of your partner. Carry your own latest STI test results, to make your partner comfortable and motivate them to share their results.
  • Avoid sex in the presence of visible sores or warts on the genitals
  • Avoid oral sex if there is sore throat, bleeding gums, mouth ulcers or any other oral infection
  • Get yourself as well as your partner regularly screened for STIs.

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Dr Nidhi M Jhamb

Dr Nidhi is a homoeopathic physician by profession who believes in a holistic approach towards healing. She loves to solve Sudoku puzzles and relaxes by dancing her worries away. Her passion is to write medical content in very simple language that anyone can easily understand.

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