Congratulations Washington, DC- your rate of syphilis is #3 highest in the US. As STD rates have continued to rise over the past few years, our area has the unfortunate distinction of having high rates of sexually transmitted infections. The latest report released this week from the CDC includes data on chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Infections caused by HIV, human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, and trichomonas are not tracked in this report and CDC reminds us that the total number of infections shared through sexual contact is in fact far beyond the rates shared in this report. What is shocking is that HALF of all infections occur in people ages 15-24.
So how bad is it? Well the CDC tracks a lot of diseases, but chlamydia has now broken the record of highest number of any disease EVER REPORTED. It is easily treated with antibiotics. But here’s the problem- since many men and women never have symptoms, they don’t know they have been infected. The disease damages the reproductive tract which means women are at greater risk for ectopic pregnancy (life threatening) and that’s if they can get pregnant at all. Gonorrhea is increasing as well and is becoming resistant to antibiotics. Gonorrhea transmitted during oral sex can cause a sore throat and it can cause infertility in both men and women. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be “silent” and cause no symptoms, but when there are symptoms they are usually discharge, burning or pain in genital area and/or with urination. While the symptoms come and go, the infection does not resolve unless treated with antibiotics.
Syphilis sounds old-fashioned but it is definitely back and on the rise. It is cured with penicillin, but is often missed in its early stage. The first symptom of syphilis is a sore. This sore can be small, and since it is painless and can be inside the vagina or rectum people may not notice it. Or perhaps they notice it but think it is an ingrown hair, or shaving nick. If it’s on the mouth or lip they may confuse it with a cold sore or canker sore. It is important to be treated at this early stage, because the next stages cause symptoms like rash, flu like illness, hair loss, among others. Eventually the bacteria enters the brain and causes serious symptoms like dementia, paralysis and even death.
All of these infections can be passed on to a fetus in utero, or a baby through birth, and cause serious health concerns, and the pregnancy may end in miscarriage or result in premature birth. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant make sure you’re screened ASAP.
20 MILLION infections each year cost $16 BILLION (yes that’s a “b” in billion) in health care costs.
And that’s not counting the effects and costs of infertility and ectopic pregnancies that are caused by sexually transmitted infections.
Protect your fertility by getting screened for STDs every 6-12 months if you are sexually active. Come talk to us and we will give you a personalized recommendation based on your life. We are easy to talk to- even about sex- and can help you stay healthy.