What do you do when you have a medical question and want an immediate answer? If you’re anything like many Americans, you probably turn to the Internet. One in three American adults have gone online to figure out a medical condition, according to the Pew Research Center. The three main reasons people turn to the Internet instead of calling a doctor, according to Jonathan D. Schiff, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, are: “People are embarrassed to ask their doctors certain questions, some patients perceive that their doctors don’t have time for them, and if they have a computer they can Google their question and get the information instead of looking for their doctor’s number and calling to make an appointment.”
The only downside, as Dr. Schiff points out, is that the information you find on the Internet sometimes isn’t as helpful as just calling your doctor in the first place. A Sex and STD Questions on the Internet survey using over 40,000 questions from Yahoo! Answers about sex and STDs revealed which topics are the most frequently searched. We’ve taken five of those questions and have gone straight to the professionals for you. That said, if you have any health concerns, call your doctor immediately, schedule an appointment, and read this in the waiting room.
1. "How does Viagra work?"
“Viagra helps blood vessels to relax, a critical first step in an erection,” says Peter N. Schlegel, M.D., James J. Colt Professor and Chairman, Department of Urology, Weill Cornell Medical College. “This occurs by inhibition of the enzyme, PDE5, as with other medications such as Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra.” Or in layman’s terms, it improves blood flow to the penis, according to Dr. Schiff. “When you get an erection, basically what happens is you get an increase of blood flow in and a decreased outflow,” Dr. Schiff says. “So, the penis fills up with blood and makes it longer, wider, and harder. Viagra works with the inflow.”
2. "What does testosterone do?" / "Does working out increase testosterone?"
“Testosterone acts on a series of different areas of the body to enhance bone development, muscle growth, sexual interest and function, as well as aspects of cognition (thought processes at a higher level),” Schlegel says.
Working out may temporarily spike your testosterone levels. Though likely not long-lasting, exercise definitely has some long-term effect on testosterone: Since working out increases muscle mass and decreases fat, Schiff says if you work out, build more muscle, and lose weight, your testosterone levels should go up.
3. "Why does sex feel good?"
“There’s a high concentration of nerve endings in the penis and vagina, which trigger stimulation and an orgasm,” Dr. Schiff says. “Dopamine is triggered and there’s a pleasant feeling in the brain during ejaculation.” It could be an evolutionary thing; when we were cavemen with only animal instincts, the fact that sex felt good encouraged us to reproduce and keep the species going.
4. "How do you get gonorrhea and chlamydia?" / "Can gonorrhea and chlamydia be cured?"
“Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both sexually transmitted diseases that are caused by direct unprotected sexual contact,” Schiff says. “Both STDs live in reproductive genital tracts of men and women and can be cured with antibiotics.” If both STDs go untreated, it can lead to a systemic infection that will lead to hospitalization for men and infertility in women, according to Schiff.
5. "Why does sex hurt?"
Well, there's the obvious potential reason: “If the man’s phallus is much larger than a woman’s vaginal opening, it’s a size mismatch and it will be painful,” Schiff says. Prostatitis (an infection and swelling of the prostate gland) can also make sex uncomfortable, according to Dr. Schiff. Which brings us back to the main point: If you’re experiencing pain, discomfort, or are just generally unsure of a medical condition, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment. It’s much better to find out exactly what’s going on.