It’s not uncommon for a text conversation to go awry thanks to a misunderstood acronym. And if you’ve ever exchanged messages with your much less text-savvy parents (No dad, “LOL” doesn’t mean “lots of love”), then you can understand why this hilarious spelling mistake left one mom in a panic.
“I’ve got a sti, any suggestions on how to get rid of it?” Dylan Heggie of Glasgow, Scotland, recently texted his mother.
What Heggie meant to say was that he had a stye, one of those painful bumps you get on your eyelid that kind of look like a pimple—an unfortunate mistake because his mom thought he meant STI, or sexually transmitted infection.
Like any worried mother, she proceeded to ask if it was on his testicles or his “willy,” leaving Heggie seriously confused.
Let’s set the record straight: A stye is a tender red bump inside or outside of your eyelid that forms when a gland becomes clogged or irritated. And STIs, which are in no way related to styes, are infections transmitted by sexual contact.
But this mom’s panic is totally spot on because of how serious STIs really are. Many STIs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and HPV (human papillomavirus), can be present without symptoms for years. If left untreated, they can lead to much more dangerous issues, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or cervical cancer. Anyone who’s sexually active should make regular testing a priority (especially women, who are more at risk of STI complications while often having fewer or no symptoms).
RELATED: Why the HPV Vaccine Is Still Controversial—and What You Need to Know About It
STIs are also of greater concern now more than ever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced rates of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia among Americans are at an all-time high and have been steeply increasing for the past four years.
And though styes and STIs are two similar-sounding conditions that are worlds apart, you actually can get an STI in your eye. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause an eye infection if you make direct contact with genital fluids from an infected partner and then touch or rub your eye. Eye herpes is also a possibility, if viral particles from a genital or oral herpes lesion gets in or near your eye.
So while Heggie’s LOL-worthy texting exchange with his mom is certainly one for the books, her reaction was 100% warranted. STIs are to be taken seriously, which is why condoms are never something to compromise.
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