Q: My boyfriend was just diagnosed with epididymitis yesterday. The doctor didn’t mention anything about staying away from sex, using protection from now on or whether or not I can get infected and pass it back to him. We have been having unprotected anal, oral & vaginal sex for a little over a year now & neither one of us have any STIs. I am curious to know what causes epididymitis. Also, can we continue to have sex and, if so, should we use protection?
A: Good for you for wanting to learn more about how your boyfriend’s diagnosis may be related to your own health, and to the sexual life that you share together. The epididymis is a thin tube that sits just above and behind men’s testicles. Although it takes up a small space in the body, it’s quite long and is tightly coiled. Its main function is to collect and store sperm (which is made by the testicles) prior to ejaculation.
The word “epididymitis” refers to an inflammation or infection of this tube; there can be several different causes for the inflammation. Common symptoms of epididymitis include pain, tenderness, soreness, or swelling of the scrotal area. The scrotum is the sac of skin that contains the testicles and epididymis.
Check Sports Injuries As Well As STIs
These same symptoms can indicate other problems, such as trauma to the testicles as a result of sports injuries or other accidents. Therefore it is always a good idea for men to check in with their healthcare provider if they experience such symptoms. Less often, men may notice symptoms such as fever and chills or a discharge from their penis.
In young men under age 35, epididymitis is often caused by sexually transmissible infections (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI, especially among adolescents and young adults. Fortunately, both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with certain antibiotics, although some strains of gonorrhea are resistant to antibiotic treatment.
There are other causes of epididymitis including enlargement of the prostate gland (which is rare in younger men), urinary tract infections and other types of bacterial infections that are not sexually transmitted. Treatment for epididymitis depends on its cause; if it is bacterial (whether from a STI or not), the typical treatment is a course of antibiotics.
In order to better understand how your boyfriend’s diagnosis of epididymitis affects your sexual life together, you two will need to ask his healthcare provider what the cause of his case of epididymitis seems to be.
Your boyfriend’s healthcare provider would have likely tested him for STIs. If your boyfriend tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea, then his healthcare provider will likely suggest that your boyfriend get treated, that you get tested and treated, and that you either abstain from sex until the infection has cleared or that you use condoms for oral, anal and/or vaginal sex until the infection has cleared. Even if your boyfriend tests negative for STIs, you still may want to check in with a healthcare provider to see if you have any bacterial infections or STIs. Regular STI testing is always a good idea when you’re sexually active.
Best To Get It Treated
If your boyfriend is experiencing soreness or discomfort, he may want to abstain from sexual activity until he feels better. Other than that, epididymitis is a common enough condition that — when treated — men typically recover quickly from, and can soon resume comfortable, enjoyable sex.