Risks of oral sex
Any skin-to-skin contact with the genitals – be it vaginal, anal or even oral is enough to be infected with sexually transmitted infections and diseases. For oral sex, using your mouth, lips, or tongue poses the same risks as other sexual activities.
The only way to prevent transmission and reduce your risk of infection is to use a genital or dental condom for every sexual encounter.
Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. It’s the most common bacterial STI globally among all age groups. Chlamydia can affect the genitals, urinary tract, rectum, and throat. Chlamydia can be transmitted through oral sex, but the infection is more likely to be transmitted through anal or vaginal sex. Most chlamydia infections of the throat don’t carry any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they can include a sore throat. It can be treated with the right antibiotics.
READ ALSO: Causes of Vaginal Itching after Sex
Gonorrhea is a common STI caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea can be passed on through oral sex, but the infection is more likely to be transmitted through anal or vaginal sex. Gonorrhea affects the throat, genitals, urinary tract, and rectum.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea of the throat often doesn’t show any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, it’s usually a week after exposure and can include a sore throat.
Gonorrhea can be cured with the right antibiotics. But there has been an increase in reports of drug-resistant gonorrhea in the United States and around the world.
Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis affects the lips, mouth, throat, rectum, anus, and genitals.
Syphilis symptoms happen in stages. For oral syphilis, the first stage includes sores in or around the mouth and throat. In the second stage, you may experience a skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The latent stage of the infection, which can last for years, shows no symptoms. The third stage of the infection can affect your eyes, heart, nerves, blood vessels, liver, bones, joints, and brain.
READ ALSO: Natural Treatments for Syphilis
Untreated syphilis can cause serious health problems such as organ damage and major neurological effects. It can also spread to a fetus during pregnancy and cause miscarriage or other serious complications for the infant.
Symptoms of syphilis can disappear with or without treatment. Syphilis can be treated with the right antibiotics.
HSV-2 can spread through oral sex and cause herpes esophagitis in some people, but this is very rare. Symptoms of herpes esophagitis include:
- Open sores in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- joint pain
- malaise(general ill feeling)
This permanent infection can spread even when you don’t have symptoms. Treatment can shorten and reduce or prevent herpes epidemics.
HPV is the most common viral STI in the United States. The CDC estimates that about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV currently, and that at least 14 million people will become newly infected yearly.
READ ALSO: HPV Infection in Men
The virus can spread through oral sex as often as it does vaginal or anal sex. HPV affects the mouth, throat, genitals, cervix, anus, and rectum.
In some cases, HPV infection won’t show any symptoms.
Other types of HPV infection can cause laryngeal or respiratory papillomatosis, which affects the mouth and throat. Symptoms include:
- difficulty speaking
- warts in the throat
- shortness of breath
- vocal changes
Several other HPV types that infect the mouth and throat don’t cause warts, but may cause cancer of the head or neck.
READ ALSO: Can You Get An STD From Kissing?
HPV doesn’t have a cure, but it sometimes disappears within two years of infection. Any warts of the mouth and throat can be removed through surgery, but they may return even with treatment.
HIV is most commonly spread through vaginal and anal sex. According to the CDC, your risk of spreading or becoming infected with HIV through oral sex is low.
HIV is a lifelong disease, and many infected people don’t see any symptoms for years. People living with HIV may initially have flu-like symptoms.
There is no cure for the viral infection. However, people with HIV can live longer, healthier lives by taking antiviral medications.
How to get tested
For STI screenings, yearly testing for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea for all sexually active women younger than 25 years and for all sexually active men who have sex with men.
People with new or multiple sex partners, as well as pregnant women, should also have yearly STI screenings. All youth and adults ages 13 to 64 years get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime.
You can visit your doctor to get screened for an STI or HIV. Many clinics offer free or low-cost testing options. What you can expect from a test will differ among each infection and disease.
The types of tests include:
- chlamydia and gonorrhea: swab of your genital area or urine sample
- HIV: swab from inside your mouth or blood test
- herpes (without symptoms): blood test
- herpes (with symptoms): swab of the affected area with a follow-up blood test to double check results
- syphilis: blood test or sample taken from a sore
- HPV (warts of the mouth or throat): Visual diagnosis based on symptoms or pap test