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Unscrewing Ourselves

The Weird Way You Can Get an STD in Your Eye

And we don’t mean from a wayward squirt.

Matthew Terrell

Vanessa Bumbeers

Sexually transmitted infections in the eyes are becoming an actual concern. Between December 2014 and March 2015, 12 cases of ocular syphilis were reported to the Centers for Disease Control. This prompted the CDC to dig into its case archives, which indicated more than 200 cases reported over the past two years from 20 states. The majority of cases have been among HIV-infected men who have sex with men. A small number have occurred among HIV-uninfected persons including heterosexual men and women. Some cases resulted in blindness. This extreme jump in cases of ocular syphilis led the CDC to issue an advisory to all clinicians to be on the lookout for the illness.

Alex de Voux, an epidemiologist in the CDC's department of STD prevention, says ocular syphilis is part of a larger trend of increased rates of syphilis. In the United States, syphilis rates have increased sharply in the last decade amongst all populations. Syphilis is known as "The Great Imitator" because its symptoms can look like a variety of other illnesses such as sore throat, headache, and skin rash. Add to that list conjunctivitis—like pink eye from elementary school—and syphilis finds another way to lurk, misdiagnosed, in the body.

"Signs and symptoms of ocular syphilis can include eye redness, blurry vision, and vision loss," de Voux says. "Several reported cases of ocular syphilis have resulted in significant complications, including blindness, so this highlights the importance of getting tested for syphilis according to CDC's recommendations and making sure anyone who tests positive gets treated right away."

Among the advice offered to doctors is to be extra aware of eyesight-related complaints from patients at high risk for syphilis (especially HIV+ men who have sex with men), and that all patients who do test positive for syphilis should be examined for cranial nerve damage, which can be permanent.

Now, the good news: You probably aren't going to get ocular syphilis after a hot bukkake session, because eyes are not a common source of sexually transmitted infections. Ocular syphilis is a symptom of infection, and not directly tied to taking a splash of jizz to the cornea.
"Ocular syphilis is a manifestation of neurosyphilis, which is an infection of the brain or spinal cord usually occurring in people with untreated syphilis. It can occur during any stage of syphilis including primary and secondary syphilis," says Brian Katzowitz, a health communications specialist with the CDC.


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Primary syphilis occurs ten to 90 days after infection, and usually presents as a chancre where the bacterium Treponema pallidum enters the body—a painless sore located in the mouth, anus, or genitals. Secondary syphilis occurs as the syphilis bacteria spreads through the body, and usually presents itself as flu-like symptoms or a rash. Tertiary, or neurosyphilis, is what happens when the infection remains untreated for years.

"Some forms of neurosyphilis can be life-threatening. While treatment for the syphilis infection can stop the progress of ocular syphilis, the damage that the infection causes can be irreversible," says Katzowitz.

Essentially, blindness.

While ocular syphilis isn't generally caused by taking a cumload in the eyes, you might want to have your boyfriend point his dick elsewhere if he jacks off on you. The eyes are a mucous membrane, mind you, which makes them susceptible to bacteria and viruses, so it's possible for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia to enter the body through the eyes. And since gonorrhea thrives in the urethra, even an ill-aimed golden shower can also pass an STI into the eyes. This is rare, but possible. What may look like red eye can lead to all sorts of bad effects including "corneal melting."

All of this talk of STIs entering through the eyes is mostly theoretical, because the CDC doesn't get that granular with its data. It's possible, but rare—the vast majority of STIs occur through sexual transmission via contact with bodily fluids. If somebody says they got an STI in their eyes after a mutual masturbation session gone awry, the truth may be that they are afraid to admit they picked up a bug while they were in pound town.

Another ocular STI in the "unlikely but possible" category is Phthiriasis palpebrarum—pubic lice. In a 2017 study from the Journal of Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, doctors cited a 63-year-old woman who reported itching and burning in both eyes, which was initially misdiagnosed as Blepharitis, or a common inflammation of the eyelid. After the patient failed to respond to antibiotics and corticosteroid eye drops, the doctors performed a slit lamp (a common tool for examining eyes) examination of the eyelids, which revealed lice and nits anchored to the eyelashes. All of the patient's eyelashes had to be removed, and the lice manually picked out. She was fine after two weeks, if not a bit strange-looking.

There is one segment of the population where ocular STIs are more than a theoretical possibility—newborns. Most states have laws that require hospitals to administer antibiotic ointment into the eyes of all newborn babies. Pregnant women with untreated gonorrhea or chlamydia can pass along the bacteria into their baby's eyes, and only antibiotic ointment can prevent a potentially blinding conjunctivitis infection.

Despite all the fairly low chances of contracting an STI through the eyes, there's no doubt that getting cum or urine in the eyes is an unpleasant experience. Anybody who has gotten cum in their eyes can attest that it burns like hell, and results in anxiety-producing redness in the eyes for hours. Your eyes should be washed out immediately with lukewarm running water. Washing your face after a session that includes bodily fluids flying about is a solid post-sex ritual in general.

Also, the best way to prevent ocular STIs, like blindness-inducing syphilis, is to be open and honest with your doctor about your sex life. This helps clinicians more accurately gauge what you are at risk for, which helps them catch and treat all STIs sooner. It's when we let infections linger in our bodies and our sexual ecosystem that they spread, become stronger, and cause permanent damage.

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