Unrecognized sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as Chlamydia or Trichomonas Vaginalis may share similar symptoms to cystitis and could also be a co-factor in bladder problems.
Kimberly’s story is one example where a chlamydia infection played a role in worsening her bladder symptoms.
If you haven’t been tested for STDs but are suffering from bladder issues, it may be a good idea to get this checked out.
Types of STDs
STDs can be bacterial, fungal, viral or parasitic. They are mainly transmitted via sexual intercourse, anal- or oral sex.
Bacterial STDs can be caused by: Chlamydia, Chancroid, Gonorrhoea, Klebsiella Granulomatis, Mycoplasma Genitalium, Mycoplasma Hominis, Syphilis and Ureaplasma.
Thrush (Candida) is a fungal infection and can be transmitted sexually.
Viral STDs include: Hepatitis B, Herpes Simplex, HIV, HIV, HPV and MCV.
Parasitic STDs: Pubic lice, Scabies and Trichomonas Vaginalis.
Symptoms of STDs
According to the WHO, the majority of STDs have mild or no symptoms, so there’s a chance of not being aware of an infection having occurred. Yet, they are quite common – around 357 million people are estimated to be infected with chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis or trichomonas vaginalis each year .
Common symptoms of an STD can include:
- Vaginal or penile discharge
- Urethral discharge
- Urethral burning
- Genital Ulcers
- Pelvic Pain
If left untreated, STDs can have more severe consequences such as pelvic inflammation and infertility.
STDs and Bladder Health
STDs can cause inflammation in the genital area, so naturally this may also affect the bladder.
One study looked into the prevalence of trichomonas vaginalis in women suffering from recurrent UTIs and found that 16.9% of women also had been infected with the parasite .
Another study found that 17.3% of women complaining about urinary symptoms also tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhoea .
An older study found that as many as 50% of tested women with an UTI also had occult STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomonas) .
Interestingly, a type of chlamydia called ‘Chlamydia pneumoniae’ has been associated with interstitial cystitis. This is an airborne organism however, and not a STD .
Testing for STDs
In the UK, anyone can get tested for STDs on the NHS at a sexual health clinic.
Testing should also be widely available in other Western countries.
Testing usually involves urine, swab and blood tests.
Treatments for STDs
Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomonas are all treated with antibiotics.
Because of some infections, like gonorrhoea, becoming more widespread there are some concerns about antibiotic resistance.
In theory, natural antimicrobials may also be effective although I could find no research into this and have no experience with these type of infections.
Using barrier methods is probably the most well-known method of decreasing the risk of catching an STD.
However, there could be additional factors:
Women with STDs seem to have an abnormal genital microflora with reduced or absent lactobacilli , which we know is also a risk factor for pathogens getting into the bladder.
It is believed that a healthy flora may reduce the risk of catching an STD .
Seeding the vagina with beneficial bacteria could therefore be helpful. Two strains that have been heavily researched in relation to genital health are Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and Lactobaciullus rhamnosus GR-1.
A lot of doctors may automatically check for STDs if you are suffering from urinary tract symptoms. But if you haven’t been tested and you think there is a chance that you may have contracted something it may be a good idea to get this checked out!
Have you been tested for STDs? What is your experience? Let me know in the comments!
Pin it for later:
- WHO Sexually Transmitted Infections Key Facts Aug 2016 http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)
- Chang, P. et al A pilot study on Trichomonas vaginalis in women with recurrent urinary tract infections Biomedical Journal 2016 [39 (4): 289-294] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2319417016301809
- Shapiro, T. et al The prevalence of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted disease in women with symptoms of a simple urinary tract infection stratified by low colony count criteria. Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Jan;12(1):38-44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15635136
- Berg, E. et al High prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in women with urinary infections. Acad Emerg Med. 1996 Nov;3(11):1030-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8922011
- Coomer, Jon Vanderbilt researchers discover potential link between C. pneumoniae and Interstitial Cystitis Reporter Nov 2011 http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter/index.html?ID=1510
- Gorbach, S. Probiotics in the third millennium. Digestive and Liver Disease : Official Journal of the Italian Society of Gastroenterology and the Italian Association for the Study of the Liver [01 Sep 2002, 34 Suppl 2:S2-7] http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/12408431
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Claire SaulJune 11, 2018
Layla, this is so important and yet not spoken about enough. I worked in a GU clinic about 25 years ago as a nurse (I had back surgery and couldn’t go straight back to the wards) but I fear that whilst care and treatment has moved on, particularly for the likes of HIV, the taboo about talking about STDs in certain parts of society has not! I have included this link on PainPals regular feature Monday Magic Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x
LaylaJune 11, 2018
Thanks, Claire! As you can see, the comment did go through 🙂 You’re so right, I hadn’t even really considered the taboo of the subject! In the UK I feel like people are talking more about it and when I went to uni they were giving out chlamydia/gonorrhea testing kits and info leaflets to everyone. So I feel that at least here it’s somewhat in the public awareness but I’m not sure if doctors are considering it in cases of bladder issues.
Claire SaulJune 11, 2018
Layla, not sure if my comment showed up….computer seemed to go down. Anyway I said that 25 years after working in a GU clinic, I’m not sure that the taboo of speaking about STDs is any further forward – although treatments are. This is so important! I have included this link on PainPals regular feature Monday Magic Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x