What is Ureaplasma & How is it Transmitted?|Causes, Symptoms, Treatment of Ureaplasma

What is Ureaplasma Infection?

Ureaplasma is a bacterium that is most commonly found in the genitourinary tract of a person. The primary characteristic of the bacteria is that it requires a host to survive. This host can be a human being or an animal. In humans, Ureaplasma is naturally present in the body. However, it does not cause any harm as long it is in balance with the other bacteria present and the immune system of the body is strong enough to prevent it from causing any harm. However, at times, the number of these bacteria significantly increases. This results in a variety of health problems and symptoms. It is then termed as Ureaplasma Infection.[2]

Ureaplasma belongs to the mycoplasma bacteria. This makes it extremely small and tends to reproduce quite quickly. One thing that is unique about Ureaplasma bacteria is that it does not have a cell wall. This makes it resistant to the common antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections. Some studies have shown Ureaplasma to have a direct link with medical conditions that affect the reproductive systems of both males and females. A pregnant mother may also pass this infection to the offspring even before the delivery of the child.[1]

What Is The Mode Of Transmission For Ureaplasma?

With regard to the mode of transmission of ureaplasma, sexual contact is the primary mode. A study has indicated that vaginal infections due to Ureaplasma are more in females who have more than one sexual partner. The second more common mode of transmission is from mother to the fetus, if the mother has Ureaplasma infection. There have been also cases of the presence of Ureaplasma bacteria in females who have never been sexually active. In such cases the presence of the bacteria remains unknown.[2]

Studies also reflect that most of the cases of Ureaplasma infection were in females younger than 50 years of age and who were African-Americans. Socioeconomic status also plays a role in the development of Ureaplasma infection, especially in the United States, according to some studies.[2]

What are the Symptoms of Ureaplasma Infection?

Ureaplasma infection remains asymptomatic as long as it is in balance with the other bacteria naturally present in the body and the immune system is working normally. In case the number of Ureaplasma bacteria increases, it leads to various health concerns. These health problems will have their own signs and symptoms. It should be noted here that the conditions mentioned below are not exclusive to Ureaplasma Infection. There are other factors also at play. These signs and symptoms include.[2]

  • Problem Conceiving: Ureaplasma infection is known to cause fertility issues in both males and females. The bacteria affect the ability of the sperms in men to move around and in case of women the infection may lead to problems conceiving. A study explains the role of a specific Ureaplasma called Ureaplasma urealyticum that is quite common in females who have problems conceiving without any known causes. Thus it is recommended for physicians to look for the bacteria in cases of unexplained infertility in females.[2] Fertility also gets affected as a result of genitourinary tract infections. However, these infections are not always caused by Ureaplasma. Sexually transmitted diseases are also one of the reasons for genitourinary tract infections. Research studies suggest a link between the Ureaplasma urealyticum with increased risks for male infertility.[2]
  • Genital Pain and Discharge: Ureaplasma Infections often cause conditions that cause pain and discharge from the genital area. Some of these medical conditions include urethritis which is caused due to inflammation of the urethra. Common symptoms of this condition include pain with urination along with itching and a foul smelling discharge.[2] Bacterial vaginosis is yet another common condition that can be caused due to Ureaplasma. This condition also causes a foul smelling discharge from the vagina and burning with urination.[2]
  • Abdominal Pain: Ureaplasma Infections also are one of the reasons for abnormally severe pain in the abdominal area due to medical conditions caused by it. The pain can also spread to the groin and pelvis. These conditions include Prostatitis which is caused due to inflammation of the prostate. Along with abdominal pain, it also causes urine to look bloody with difficulty urinating and pain around the genitals.[2] Kidney Stones is one of the common conditions that can be caused by Ureaplasma Infection. It is a condition that causes severe pain around the abdominal area along with foul smelling urine.[2]

How Is Ureaplasma Infection Diagnosed?

If Ureaplasma Infection is suspected by a physician, a biopsy or a swab will be recommended to get to a definitive diagnosis. The swab or the biopsy will be taken from the tissues in the vagina, urethra, or the urethral lining. Ureaplasma bacteria even under a microscope are difficult to see due to its small nature. To get to a definitive diagnosis, specialized laboratory investigations will have to be done.[2]

How is Ureaplasma Infection Treated?

Since Ureaplasma is a bacterial infection, then the frontline treatment for it is antibiotics. However, since the bacteria do not have a cell wall, not many antibiotics are effective for treating it. The choice of the antibiotic depends on the condition that has been caused by the bacteria and the overall health status of the patient. There are certain classes of antibiotics which are deemed unsafe for pregnant females or newborn babies.[2]

Doxycycline and azithromycin are medications that are commonly used for treating infections in the genitourinary tract. If there is no improvement in the condition, then erythromycin may be tried. This medication is also effective in newborns that have lung problems caused by the Ureaplasma bacteria. For pregnant females with premature rupture of membranes due to Ureaplasma, they can be treated with azithromycin or erythromycin. Once a female starts treatment for the infection with antibiotics then the chances of the infection spreading to the newborn become significantly less.[2]

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