Health and Wellness

Men who have high-risk sex with other men are more likely to contract these painful diseases

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Men who practice “high-risk sexual activity” with members of the same sex are almost two times more likely to be diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) than heterosexual men who practice high-risk sexual activities, a new study has found.

The study — conducted by Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Gut — analyzed two decades of self-reported data taken from 58 hospitals nationwide.

The data was collected between 2002 and 2022. The study defined high-risk sexual activity as “sexual contact without barrier protection as well as having several sexual partners,” SciTech Daily reported.

While 0.8 percent of men who participate in high-risk same-sex activities were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (a painful inflammation of the digestive tract), only 0.49 percent of their heterosexual counterparts were diagnosed with the same illness — a 63 percent difference.

Also, while 1.26 percent of men who participate in high-risk same-sex activity were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (painful open sores in the bowels), only 0.52 percent of their heterosexual counterparts were diagnosed with the same illness — a 211 percent difference.

The study also found that men with Crohn’s disease who have high-risk same-sex encounters were more likely to have other IBDs, including perianal issues affecting anal tissues. These issues include hemorrhoids, tears, abnormal openings (called fistulas), and sores.

Men with Crohn’s disease who have high-risk same-sex encounters were also more likely to be diagnosed with stricturing diseases. Such diseases cause a narrowing of the colon or small intestine. This can cause bowel obstruction, leading to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, and even potentially lethal toxic shock caused by infectious bacteria from unreleased feces.

“Studying the cause of IBD in this underrepresented patient population in comparison to other patient groups will allow us to further investigate the cause of disease development,” said Fabio Cominelli, the study’s co-author, who teaches at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

The research team was granted over a million dollars from the National Institutes of Health to continue studying the issue. The funds will help them collect greater amounts of plasma, tissue, and stool samples from LGBTQ people until 2025. Researchers will use the samples to analyze participants’ gut microbiomes and better understand why men who have sex with men seem more susceptible to IBDs.

Cominelli said the research will help medical workers provide focused preventative care and treatment to non-heterosexual patients while also reducing the stigma associated with men who participate in high-risk same-sex activities.

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