Urgent care doctors see spring spike in STDs
With South Florida’s peak tourist season approaching, signs that the Spring Break crowds have arrived can already be seen in our busier than usual highways, hotels, beaches and bars. It can also be seen at the Baptist Health Urgent Care Center in Miami Beach, where doctors at this time of year usually see a significant increase in the number of patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five Americans has an STD, or 68 million infections across the country – and more than 26 million new cases are diagnosed each year. This number may be low because many people with STDs do not seek care out of ignorance, embarrassment, or shame. Also, doctors say that many STDs are never detected because people often have no symptoms.
STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections, can affect people of all ages, but are especially common among young people. The CDC estimates that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for nearly half of all new sexually transmitted infections in the country. With so many Spring Breakers across the country falling into this demographic, it’s easy to see why urgent care centers across the region are treating more STD patients at this time of year.
Roger Alvarez Soto, MD, says STDs are among the conditions he routinely treats as an urgent care physician with Baptist Health Urgent Care, particularly at their Brickell and Miami Beach locations, where they treat in average of five to 10 cases of STDs per day. , and even more in March and April.
“These places have a younger population,” Dr. Alvarez points out. “Brickell has a large concentration of young professionals – people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who live and work there and who tend to lead very active social lives. We treat a lot of STDs there.
Miami Beach, on the other hand, is more of a transitory market, says Dr. Alvarez. “We usually deal with a lot of young tourists there, especially at this time of year when excessive drinking and partying can lead to risky sexual behavior such as unprotected sex or intercourse with several partners.
STDs can be passed from person to person through vaginal, oral, or anal sex, Dr. Alvarez notes. And although it rarely happens, he says STDs can also be spread through intimate physical contact, such as intense fondling. People with weakened immune systems can be infected more easily, he adds.
Time is health – don’t delay treating an STD
According to Dr. Alvarez, the list of STDs for which people commonly seek treatment at Baptist Health Urgent Care range from herpes and genital warts to gonorrhea, chlamydia and primary or early-stage syphilis. In some cases, he says, patients can be infected with both chlamydia and gonorrhea, as these conditions tend to coexist.
“Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infections of the genitals, rectum and throat and can be passed from mother to baby during childbirth, causing serious complications in newborns,” says Dr. Alvarez. “While both can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, chlamydia causes severe permanent damage to the female reproductive system, leading to infertility.”
The type and length of treatment for an STD varies depending on the diagnosis, according to Dr. Alvarez. “For some conditions, like herpes, we can just write a prescription for an antiviral drug and you’re on your way,” he says. Others, like advanced syphilis, can be harder to diagnose and treat. “Syphilis is a great simulator because it mimics many other conditions, so an accurate diagnosis can often be a challenge.”
With STDs, as with most diseases, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome, says Dr. Alvarez. “That’s why it’s so important to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment,” he says. “With STDs, time is health. The longer you delay your treatment, the more serious the consequences can be.
How do you know if you have an STD?
One of the first steps in treating an STD is knowing whether you have one or not. Because STDs don’t always cause symptoms or only cause mild symptoms, Dr. Alvarez says it’s possible to have an infection and not even know it.
“Many infections can be asymptomatic. That’s why if you and your partner are having sex, you owe it to yourself to get tested, especially if you’re not in an exclusive relationship,” says Dr. Alvarez. Even then, he adds, it’s possible to be in an exclusive relationship and get an infection. “At least once a year, you and your partner should have a conversation about STD prevention and get tested by your doctor.”
Dr. Alvarez advises seeing a health care provider as soon as possible for STD testing if you have unprotected sex or develop unexplained genitourinary symptoms. “These can include painful or painless genital ulcers, burning on urination, or unusual vaginal or penile discharge,” he says, adding that urethritis, or inflammation of the urethra, is common with chlamydia and gonorrhea and can sometimes be painful.
Also, says Dr. Alvarez, it’s not uncommon for female patients to confuse STD symptoms with yeast infections or urinary tract infections, or for men to confuse STD symptoms with folliculitis or eczema. marginalized. “At Baptist Health Urgent Care, we have the ability to accurately diagnose and treat all types of STDs,” he says.
As the CDC notes, prompt detection and treatment of STDs can prevent long-term complications and reduce the risk of passing the infection on to someone else. Depending on the test, Dr. Alvarez says most STDs can be detected within two weeks to three months of infection.
Not all STDs are curable, Dr. Alvarez points out, but if you receive a positive diagnosis, he says the good news is that most STDs can be treated with medication. However, if left untreated, he says some STDs can cause chronic urinary problems in men and infertility in women.
“STDs should not be taken lightly. They can be quite serious, especially for a college-age woman who is in her prime,” says Dr. Alvarez. “She’s here over spring break, she’s having the time of her life and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think too much about her future while she’s here. But if she’s not careful and ends up with an untreated STD, she may not be able to have children later in life. That would be a shame.”
With STDs, everyone is at risk
One of the problems with STDs, says Dr. Alvarez, is that everyone is at risk. “Male, female, young, old, black, white, gay, straight – STDs have no face and don’t discriminate,” he says. “It all depends on your sexual practices. If you have risky sex, you are at high risk of contracting an STD.
Short of abstinence, a strategy few Spring Breakers seem curious about, what’s the best way to prevent an STD? Dr. Alvarez says using a condom is the most effective protection against STDs. “Spring break is a great time to relax, have fun and disconnect,” he acknowledges. “But for your health and that of those around you, party safely and always – always – use protection during sexual intercourse.