At Peech, we want to break down the taboos surrounding sex and sexuality, so in this series of articles, we're discussing sexually transmitted diseases. We would like to emphasize how sexually transmitted diseases do not make you gross or wrong or any other negative stereotype associated with STDs - it's merely infections, that in most cases can be treated easily and quickly. Give our articles about HIV and AIDS, genital warts, herpes, clamydia, and gonorrhea a read as well, and learn something new about STDs
What is mycoplasma genitalium?
Mycoplasma genitalium is the second most common STD after chlamydia. Yet for many people it's a completely unknown disease.
Mycoplasma can be transmitted by having unprotected vaginal penetrative sex, anal sex and oral sex. It's a bacterium that causes symptoms identical to those of chlamydia. If you go to your regular doctor with symptoms, you will therefore be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea first, and only if these are negative will you be tested for mycoplasma. Therefore, it usually takes a little while to find out if you have mycoplasma.
The mycoplasma bacterium was first discovered in the early 1980s, compared to the chlamydia bacterium, which was discovered in 1907. As a result, much less is known about mycoplasma and it's also harder to treat than chlamydia, as mycoplasma genitalium has developed a resistance to certain types of antibiotics. In Denmark, only people who have symptoms (or a partner who is/has been positive recently) are currently tested, both because mycoplasma is still difficult to culture, but also to avoid over-treatment with antibiotics. This is also because studies have suggested that if you are infected with mycoplasma without having symptoms, it's not dangerous for most. However, more studies are still needed in this area.
What are the symptoms of mycoplasma? - for people with a vulva
- More vaginal discharge than you usually have
- It stings when you pee
- In some cases you may have pain in the lower abdomen
You are more likely to be infected with mycoplasma if you already have bacterial vaginosis (overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina that causes inflammation with changed and smelly discharge - the classic "fishy smell").
What are the symptoms of mycoplasma? - for people with penis
- Feeling that the urethra is irritated
- Tenderness in the tip of the penis, the glans
- Stinging when pee
- Discharge from the urethra
Do you always get symptoms?
As with most other sexually transmitted diseases, you can be infected with mycoplasma without having any symptoms. In rare cases, mycoplasma can lead to inflammation of the cervix and/or pelvic inflammatory disease in people with vulvas, or epididymitis (inflammation of a tube at the back of the testicles) in people with penises. However, this risk is very small. But it is important to get tested and get the right treatment if you have or suspect mycoplasma.
How do you test for mycoplasma?
Testing for mycoplasma is done with a swab test from the urethra. In people with vulvas, you can also swab inside the vagina and from the cervix. Once you have been swabbed, the test is sent to the National Serum Institute to see if the bacteria is resistant to certain types of antibiotics. Only when this test is done can you receive treatment. This is to make sure that the right treatment is given. Some time after the treatment, you need to be tested again to find out if the treatment has worked.
If you have had mycoplasma or another sexually transmitted disease, there is nothing shameful about it. Get tested by your doctor and get treatment so you don't infect others, and contact your sexual partner(s) so they can get tested too. And as always, remember that you can prevent infection by using protection such as condoms and dental dams.
Beigi, R. H. (2012). Sexually Transmitted Diseases. wiley.