Is Ureaplasma an STD? What You Should Know About It
Published Dec 7, 2020
What is ureaplasma?
Ureaplasma is a group of tiny, naturally occurring bacteria within the respiratory, urinary, and reproductive tracts in both men and women. They are among the smallest free-living organisms in the world, so little that they cannot be seen through a microscope.
These bacteria are often part of the human microbiome, the large collection of microbes within the body that performs many different functions, such as aiding in digestion, regulating our immune system, and protecting against harmful bacteria.
Sometimes otherwise harmless bacteria may overgrow and inflame healthy tissues, creating a bacteria colony capable of causing a whole host of other health problems in itself. Having said that, it can be problematic to label ureaplasma as reproductive tract pathogens, as this bacteria has been found infertile and healthy individuals along with infertile ones.
How can I contract ureaplasma?
Ureaplasma is highly contagious and is typically transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, both vaginal and anal. It may also be transmitted non-sexually through blood, as in sharing needles and blood transfusions. It may even be spread through saliva by coughing, kissing, sneezing, and the like in more extreme cases.
Ureaplasma may also be passed on from mother to child through birth. However, the infection usually goes away after a few months on its own. This infection is relatively rare among children and other sexually inactive adults.
Immunosuppressed or immunocompromised people are at much more risk of contracting ureaplasma than most. This group includes those with HIV and those who’ve recently undergone an organ transplant.
Is Ureaplasma an STD then?
By definition, ureaplasma sounds a lot like sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or diseases (STDs), but experts say that it doesn’t fall under the same classification as them. Instead, it is classified as a bacterial infection, which could potentially open the door for more harmful STIs.
Most people with a ureaplasma infection won’t experience symptoms at all. However, it may be a possible cause of inflammation in the urethra, leading to a condition called urethritis. With urethritis, both men and women may experience these symptoms:
- frequent urination
- burning urination
- urethral discharge
Furthermore, ureaplasma may also lead to vaginal conditions like bacterial vaginosis (BV), which can exhibit the following symptoms:
- thin white or gray vaginal discharge
- strong fish-like odor
- burning or pain when urinating
Ureaplasma could also lead to the following conditions if left untreated:
- kidney stones
- premature labor
- respiratory disease in newborns
- STIs like HIV
Doctors will not usually test for the presence of ureaplasma. Because of how small it is, ureaplasma cannot be seen under a microscope, requiring much more specialized tests and equipment. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we listed above, the doctor may need to collect one or more of the samples below for studying.
- cervical swab
- urine sample
- endometrial swab
- an endometrial biopsy
Fortunately, in most cases, ureaplasma is relatively easy to treat. Prescription medication in the form of antibiotics effectively treats and cures ureaplasma. There are two types of antibiotics that have been proven to cure ureaplasma completely. These are azithromycin and doxycycline. Doxycycline is usually taken as a weeklong treatment course, while azithromycin is a single-dose one. It will usually take a week for the symptoms to clear up. If symptoms clear up sooner, it would still be advisable to complete your course of medications, just to be sure. For the safest and most effective treatment options, you will want to consult with your doctor.
The most effective way to prevent ureaplasma is by abstaining completely from sexual intercourse. However, as this seems like the most impractical choice, here are effective alternative prevention methods:
- Use a condom. Barrier methods like condoms are the safest and most recommended prevention option when it comes to ureaplasma. They are the most practical and effective course of action besides abstinence.
- Minimize your number of sexual partners. The fewer sexual partners you have, the lower the chances of you contracting ureaplasma infections.
- Avoid sharing intimate items like sex toys or needles. Ureaplasma can be spread through sexual contact, not necessarily direct. If you should share sex toys (which we wouldn’t recommend either), make sure to use condoms with them.
- Attend regular STI screenings.
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