Something I notice with some regularity at Scarleteen, especially with new users, are folks showing up reporting symptoms that sound like a genital infection, be it an STI or a bacterial or yeast infection. Like discharge that’s radically changed color, especially going yellowish, grayish or greenish, things getting kind of stinky, pain with sex or even just when toileting or sitting around, unexplained spotting or bleeding.
In other words, things that sound like an infection is a big possibility, and sometimes sound like it’s probable someone has been walking around with an untreated infection for a while.
We know lots of people feel skittish about sexual healthcare, that for some, even good care is traumatic, and plenty want to put it off as much as they can, for as long as they can. We also get that it can feel like going in with some kind of infection is much more embarrassing than when you’re in good health, even if we also know doctors and clinicians don’t tend to be grossed out by infections like people who don’t work in healthcare can be.
What can happen, though, in that situation, is that seeking out care keeps getting put off, especially as things get worse, so someone can feel like it has gotten even MORE embarrassing.
Here’s the scoop, folks: most genital infections? As in, the vast majority of them? Truly are no big whoop when you catch them early and get treated straightaway. Most are easily treatable, so in no time, it can be like you never had one in the first place.
But. When genital infections get more serious, that’s usually less often about the KIND of infection and more often about people going a long time without treatment. A long time can be months, but sometimes, even within a couple weeks things can get more serious when it comes to the impact on your long-term health (untreated infections are the leading cause of PID and infertility, for example).
Of course, if and when someone has something they can pass on to others, going without treatment can also often mean more people winding up with illness. As well, having one infection brewing makes you way more likely to pick up others. people not getting checked out and treated while still engaging in sex is one of the biggest reasons our STI rates in the world are as high as they are.
So, we know some of you might feel freaked out about going to get seen, but please know that sooner really is better, and in some cases, is the difference between an infection years later you will seriously forget you even had, and an infection becoming the root of healthcare issues you might have to deal with your whole life. If you didn’t go sooner and you’re pretty sure you’ve got something brewing? Go now. Sexual healthcare providers have often seen plenty of severe infections, so believe us, you won’t be the first. Infections that develop and get worse do not just magically go away. It’d be awesome if they did, but they don’t. They get worse and spread to other organs or parts of your body.
Pro-tip: before becoming sexually active (as in, having any kind of genital sex with someone else), do yourself a favor and find where you’re going to get sexual healthcare once you are. Better still? Become a new patient now, like getting your pap smear or bimanual exam there, if it’s time for that, so that if later on, you do need care for something, you don’t have to wait very long for it, and will know who to call and where to go. Trying to find fast sexual healthcare when something is already wrong is not only super-stressful, it can mean waiting is just a given, and that’s no good.
(If lack of access to care is the issue, don’t forget that you can always come to our message boards or use our text service: we’re always happy to help our users find the care they need and can afford and reach.) - HC