Can You Get an STD From Masturbating?

And Is It Safe to Masturbate While Being Treated for an STD?

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Masturbation and STDs are two topics that people are often reluctant to discuss. That's true individually, but it's even more true when you put the topics together. People are often concerned over whether or not it's safe to masturbate while undergoing STD treatment, and, more often, whether it is possible to get an STD from masturbation.

Understanding how STDs are spread can help people get a better idea of the risks from masturbation.

However, there's one thing that everyone should be clear on: If you don't have an STD, you can't get one from masturbating. The only exception to that is if you're using an infected sex toy to masturbate with, but that is unlikely.

If you do have an STD, the safety of masturbating varies depending on your diagnosis.

Masturbation and Bacterial STDs

It is generally safe to masturbate while you are being treated for bacterial STDs such as chlamydiagonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. These STDs are treated systemically with antibiotics. They also aren't spread by skin to skin contact.

When being treated for a bacterial STD, You should practice safe sex to avoid infecting a partner until you (or both of you) are done with treatment. However, there's no reason not to masturbate as much as you want.

Masturbation and Sexually Associated Infections

It's reasonably safe to masturbate with sexually associated infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

That's true even if you're using a local treatment, such as a cream or suppository.

However, with any of these diseases, there are some precautions you should take. If you masturbate with sex toys or other objects you should be certain to cover them with condoms and/or disinfect them thoroughly between masturbation sessions.

If you don't, those same toys could end up harboring fomites. Then, playing with those toys could end up reinfecting you at a later date.

Masturbation and STDs of the Skin

If you are infected with a treatable STD that spreads by skin to skin contact, the answer is different. You will want to be cautious about masturbating.

It is possible to spread diseases such as molluscum or herpes around your body through a process known as autoinoculation. If you touch a sore, you can move infectious material to another part of your skin and start to get sores there. Therefore, you should try to avoid touching active sores or disease lesions during masturbation.

It is also possible to end up with infectious material trapped under your nails. Therefore, masturbation or mutual masturbation with gloved hands is always a good option.

Masturbation, HIV, and Hepatitis

Masturbation is very safe sex for people with HIV and hepatitis. It is not possible to reinfect yourself with these viruses. However, you should be careful about masturbating in a shared environment. If you do that, be certain to clean up after a session to avoid the risk of exposing anyone you live/work/play with to potentially infectious biological fluids.

Potentially infectious secretions include semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and breast milk.

Making Masturbation Safer

People don't always know when they are infected with an STD. Therefore, here are some things that can make masturbation safer without making it less fun.

  1. Wash your hands before and after masturbation. This helps you avoid transferring bacteria or other pathogens to or from your genitals.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes while you are masturbating. The eyes are mucosal surfaces, just like the genital region. This means they are susceptible to a number of STDs. Furthermore, ocular STD infections can be extremely nasty. If untreated, they can even lead to blindness.
  1. Always clean any sex toys you use thoroughly after use.
  2. Never share sex toys without covering them with condoms or disinfecting them thoroughly.
  3. If you find pimples, sores, or other strange bumps while masturbating, immediately go and wash your hands. Then try to avoid touching them. Although they may not be STD related, it's better to be careful. You do not want to end up moving bacteria around your genitals if you can avoid it. Furthermore, you may want to consider seeing your doctor or visiting an STD clinic for screening. That will allow you  to make sure that you do not have an infection.

Sources:

Anderson TA, Schick V, Herbenick D, Dodge B, Fortenberry JD. A study of human papillomavirus on vaginally inserted sex toys, before and after cleaning, among women who have sex with women and men. Sex Transm Infect. 2014 Nov;90(7):529-31. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2014-051558.

Hughes CM, Damon IK, Reynolds MG. Understanding U.S. healthcare providers' practices and experiences with molluscum contagiosum. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 14;8(10):e76948. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076948

Mell HK. Management of oral and genital herpes in the emergency department. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2008 May;26(2):457-73, x. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2008.02.001.

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