Ureaplasma urealyticum is a bacterium that grows in the cervix, vagina or urethra and is spread by sexual contact. It is present in many individuals but when it grows out of control it can produce unpleasant symptoms. Ureaplasma urealyticum can be easily treated by a course of antibiotics.

It's thought that ureaplasma urealyticum affects about 70% of sexually active men and women. Although it is not considered as an STI, ureaplasma can be transmitted through sexual contact. Ureaplasma often carries no symptoms whatsoever, and most people may never experience any problems at all.

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What Type Of STI Is Ureaplasma Urealyticum?

Ureaplasma urealyticum is a bacterial infection and it can be effectively treated with the right antibiotics. Viral infections such as herpes and HIV cannot be treated this way.

It's thought that 70% of sexually active people are affected by ureaplasma urealyticum, but it's not classed as an STI infection in the way that chlamydia and syphilis are, it is simply an infection that's spread via sex.

Ureaplasma urealyticum is a bacterium of the genus mycoplasma. It usually lives in the urinary tract and only causes a problem when it grows out of control. Other mycoplasma that affects humans are:

  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae which causes lung infections
  • Mycoplasma genitalium which causes genital infections
  • Mycoplasma hominis live in the urinary and genital tract and rarely cause an infection
  • Ureaplasma parvum lives in the vagina or urethra in men

There are two species of ureaplasma. They are parvum and urealyticum. A test will identify which you have and how best to treat it.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ureaplasma Urealyticum

Often ureaplasma urealyticum produce no symptoms as they can live in the body without causing a problem. When they multiply and cause an infection they can cause the following symptoms.

Ureaplasma Urealyticum Symptoms In Women

  • A dull abdominal ache that in the genitals or abdomen
  • An unusual vaginal smell
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge that is an unusual colour of consistency
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Fatigue

Ureaplasma Urealyticum Symptoms In Men

  • Pain on urination
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Penile discharge
  • Penile redness and soreness
  • Epididymitis
  • Fatigue

As you grow older the symptoms of an overgrowth of ureaplasma are more likely to show in the form of pain or other non-specific problem. If you have a weakened immune system you are more likely to notice symptoms.

How Do You Get Ureaplasma Urealyticum

Ureaplasma urealyticum is usually transmitted through sex. It is highly contagious and the majority of those with the infection don't know they have it. This is due to the lack of symptoms it can produce. You can also develop ureaplasma urealyticum through the use of needles, swapping blood, saliva and forms of close contact.

Women can spread ureaplasma urealyticum to their unborn baby if the infection spreads through the urinary tract, through the umbilical cord or during the process of birth.

Getting Tested

If you feel you have any kind of symptoms in your genital or urinary tract a checkup with your doctor will help you identify what might be wrong. Your local sexual health clinic can also provide tests and information on what to do if you test positive for ureaplasma urealyticum.

It's important not to wait and see what happens because the earlier you get treatment, the less likely you are to experience unpleasant symptoms. Seeking treatment early also reduces your chance of complication such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or an infection in the testicles and sperm carrying tubes.

Men and women are tested for ureaplasma urealyticum in different ways. Women will need to have a swab taken from their cervix or vagina and undergo an internal investigation. An internal examination is not painful. Your vagina will be opened and a swab inserted. The procedure will only take a few minutes and can save you a lot of discomfort and worry in the long term. Men can be tested for ureaplasma urealyticum via a urine sample.

It is possible to buy home testing kits, but these are not as accurate as laboratory tests. If you want to use a home testing kit ensure you obtain it from a well-respected source or ask your doctor for advice.

If you want to ensure your infection is gone you can retest for ureaplasma urealyticum three weeks after you have finished your course of antibiotics.

How Do I Treat Ureaplasma Urealyticum?

Ureaplasma urealyticum is easily treated with a quick course of antibiotics. The usual prescription is Doxycycline as a week long treatment but Azithromycin may be taken as a single dose. Symptoms may take a while to clear up after your course of treatment but they will soon pass. Antibiotics are likely to clear your infection the sooner you take it, so don't delay getting treatment.

As with all antibiotic courses you should finish the treatment. Don't leave antibiotics just in case you think you'll need them at a later date. If you don't finish the course then some infection may remain and will grow into another infection. This will require a further course of antibiotics. Taking too many antibiotics leads to resistant bacterial strains that are hard to treat.

If you have an ureaplasma urealyticum infection it's likely your partner will have it too. You should seek treatment together otherwise your partner will simply pass the infection back to you. Some STI clinics have a system of letting a sexual partner know they need an STI check up without identifying the infected individual.

Why Should I Treat Ureaplasma Urealyticum?

Ureaplasma urealyticum is easily treated so there is no reason to be wary of attending a screening and any antibiotic treatment. It is simple, effective and rapid. Compared to a lifetime of dealing with ureaplasma urealyticum the treatment is easy.

If ureaplasma urealyticum is left untreated and you have symptoms not only will you be uncomfortable, you risk further complications. These include infections as the ureaplasma urealyticum spreads to other parts of your body. Meningitis and pneumonia infections can occur. It can damage joints, nerves and muscles if left to spread unchecked.

An untreated ureaplasma urealyticum infection in the bladder and urethra of both men and women can lead to complications:

  • In women complications include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is when bacteria spread into the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries causing pain and potentially infertility.
  • In pregnancy ureaplasma urealyticum is particularly concerning. Expectant mothers may experience premature labour, miscarriage or stillbirth. Ureaplasma urealyticum bacterium can potentially cause intra-amniotic infection and a low birth weight. Resultant pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis in newborns can lead to serious problems that require strong treatments. This can happen if you fall pregnant and then develop ureaplasma urealyticum or you have an existing infection.
  • In men, an untreated infection of ureaplasma urealyticum can lead to epididymitis. This is when bacteria inflame tubes that transport sperm. It can also lead to swollen and painful testicles. If left untreated in the long term it can cause infertility.

Once you have treated ureaplasma urealyticum your sexual confidence will return and you can relax back into enjoying your sex life. An STI or bacterial infection like ureaplasma urealyticum on your genitals is stressful and upsetting. Taking a course of antibiotics will quickly rid you of an infection and put your mind at rest.

FAQs about Ureaplasma Urealyticum

How is ureaplasma urealyticum caught?

Ureaplasma urealyticum is caught through sexual contact, blood, saliva and during pregnancy or birth.

Will I have ureaplasma urealyticum for life?

No. It's easily treated with antibiotics and clears up swiftly if you get treatment sooner rather than later. If you delay treatment you may need stronger antibiotics for a longer period of time and risk complications like infertility.

How can you test for ureaplasma urealyticum?

Testing is carried out by your doctor, sexual health clinic or by purchasing a home testing kit. Women generally need a swab from their vagina and men take a urine test.

Can I safely ignore ureaplasma urealyticum?

If you have symptoms it's recommended that you seek treatment. Ureaplasma urealyticum can lead to complications as well and causes painful, distressing symptoms. Leaving ureaplasma urealyticum untreated means you will spread the infection as it is highly contagious.

Can I treat ureaplasma urealyticum without telling my partner?

You can but it's not advisable if you've had unprotected sex with your partner. If you haven't used a condom it's possible they have the infection too. They will pass the infection back once yours has cleared leaving you needing more treatment.

Where Do I Get Treatment From?

Your doctor or sexual health clinic can provide treatment for ureaplasma urealyticum. You can also buy it online after an online consultation. The treatment is simply a course of antibiotics.

You will need to be tested first as the symptoms of ureaplasma urealyticum can be similar to STIs such as chlamydia or syphilis. Some STIs require a different type of antibiotics for the most effective treatment.

Herbal remedies are available online or over-the-counter for ureaplasma infections but they are not clinically proven. It's best to obtain prescription treatment for ureaplasma urealyticum as this is the only guaranteed way to clear your infection. Using herbal remedies can prolong the amount of time you are infected, making it harder to treat.

If you choose to buy prescription treatment online ensure you are buying from a reputable pharmacy that delivers genuine medication. Buying from the cheapest site does not guarantee genuine antibiotics and can put your health at risk. If you are not asked to undertake an online consultation do not purchase medicine from the site.

How to Prevent STIs in the Future

STIs are prevalent in the UK. All sexually active adults are at risk of catching an STI unless they protect themselves. The contraceptive pill, implant, intrauterine device, intrauterine system, patch and vaginal ring are excellent forms of contraception but they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

To keep yourself safe you should always use a condom and follow the instructions so it does not rip or tear. Female condoms are another option that prevents STIs.

Condoms are the safest and most effective way to protect yourself from ureaplasma urealyticum and STIs that are transferred via fluid exchange.

Other ways to protect yourself are:

  • Minimising your number of sexual partners
  • Avoid sharing sex toys. Bacteria can linger on sex toys. It is not common but possible you can develop an STI this way.
  • Use dental dams. These are small squares of latex or silicone that are placed over the vaginal area to separate mouth from fluids. An opened condom can work just as well during oral sex.
  • Get yourself tested for STIs on a regular basis. Some present no symptoms such as chlamydia. Others symptoms are mild and easy to dismiss such as the initial syphilis infection that disappears after a week but returns with more serious symptoms. If you leave STIs untreated they will multiply and potentially cause complications.
  • Ask your partner to have an STI screening too. If your partner has an STI you will experience regular re-infections that put your health at risk and mean you need to take additional courses of antibiotics.
  • Get treatments. The sooner you receive treatment for your STI, whether this is ureaplasma urealyticum or another, the milder the symptoms will be.
  • Lifestyle changes. If you have issues with alcohol or other substances that lead you to partake in unprotected sex, assess what makes you behave this way e.g. binge drinking on the weekend. If you need help quitting speak to your doctor for advice.

Ureaplasma urealyticum is a bacterial infection that's easily and quickly treated. Despite not being classed an STI it is spread through sexual contact. If you have symptoms get tested and seek treatment as soon as possible. There is no reason why ureaplasma urealyticum should not clear up quickly and leave you to enjoy your health and sex life again.

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