More than 2 million new cases of the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2016, according to a new report, 2016 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (1) This is the highest number of cases reported for these diseases, and the CDC is warning communities that unless changes are made, the numbers might continue rising.
CDC Findings about STDs
The report focuses on the three sexually transmitted diseases for which there are federally funded control programs: chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. The majority of the new reported cases, or nearly 1.6 million, were of chlamydia, an increase of 4.7 percent when compared with 2015. Gonorrhea accounted for 480,000 cases, an increase of 18.5 percent from 2015. Nearly 28,000 new cases of syphilis, the most dangerous of the three, were reported in 2016, an increase of 17.6 percent from 2015.
Because doctors are required by law to report only these diseases and HIV, when you factor in other diseases that are transmitted sexually, like herpes, the CDC estimates that the actual number of STD cases in the U.S. is 20 million. Half of those cases are among young people ages 15 to 24 years old.
The CDC attributes the uptick in STD rates to a decrease in STD public health program funding; in 2012, more than half of state and local STD programs had their budgets cut, leading to reductions in clinic hours and screening. The resurgence of syphilis, in particular, points to a deteriorating public health infrastructure and lack of access to health care.
Additionally, a lack of facts-based sexual education among young people and limited resources when they do receive education, means that young people are contracting the diseases, unaware of how to protect themselves, what symptoms to look for, and when and how to get tested.
While chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis can all be treated with antibiotics, these STDs often go undetected. If left untreated, they can cause serious health problems including, in the case of syphilis, death.
Conventional and Natural Treatments for STDs
A doctor can test you for all three of these STDs. After treatment, another test should be done to ensure the infection is completely gone.
This is the most common STD. Unfortunately, chlamydia often doesn’t exhibit symptoms or, when it does, they’re not recognized as a problem. Symptoms for women can include painful urination, vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, painful intercourse or bleeding after sex. In men, they include painful urination, testicular swelling, cloudy discharge from the penis or redness and swelling at the opening of the urethra. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause serious, lasting damage to the reproductive system.
Conventional treatments for chlamydia include a round of antibiotics, usually for 5 to 10 days. You must complete the entire course of antibiotics to eliminate the disease. Chlamydia can also be passed to your partner during this time, so if you have been diagnosed with chlamydia, you’ll want to refrain from sexual intercourse, but also have your partner get tested.
Unfortunately, the antibiotics most commonly prescribed for chlamydia treatment — doxycycline, erythromycin, azithromycin and levofloxacin — can bring about unpleasant side effects. You might consider supplementing your conventional chlamydia treatment with some natural alternatives. Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic that can help fight infections. Echinacea can help fight a chlamydia infection, as can raw garlic. Oregano oil fights infections, while taking probiotics like kefir or goat’s milk will help strengthen your immune system against the infection.
If you opt to treat a chlamydia infection only with natural treatments, it will likely take longer than a course of antibiotics. Before engaging in sexual activity again, make sure to get tested to ensure you’ve beaten the infection.
In 2009, STD rates of gonorrhea were at an historic low, but those days are long gone. Complicating matters even more is that it’s becoming more difficult to treat a gonorrhea infection, as the infection has become resistant to many of the treatments, another victim of antibiotic resistance.
Today, the only treatment recommended by the CDC to treat gonorrhea is a dual therapy treatment of ceftriaxone and azithromycin. Symptoms for both men and women are similar and include painful urination and discharge. Gonorrhea can also spread to other parts of the body, including the eyes and throat.
Alternative and natural treatments for gonorrhea are especially critical, considering the limited resources now available to treat it. Berberine, goldseal, apple cider vinegar, echinacea, Epsom salts, l-arginine, probiotics, raw honey and black tea can all help with gonorrhea symptoms and fighting the infection.
Not so long ago, it was believed that the U.S. would eradicate syphilis entirely. Instead, STD rates of syphilis are on the rise once again, and physicians fear that as public health funds are further reduced, these rates will continue climbing. Worryingly, rates of syphilis among babies are rising as well. That means that mothers were left untreated during their pregnancy — even though only a simple test is required — and passed the disease along to their unborn child.
Like chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, however, syphilis can lead to death, often years after the initial infection. Syphilis goes undetected because its symptoms — sores, fevers, rashes, sore throat, muscle aches and overall fatigue — are usually mistaken for something else.
Penicillin is the preferred treatment option for syphilis. Your dosage and course of antibiotics will depend on what stage of the STD you have. If you’re allergic to penicillin, you’ll likely be prescribed doxycycline or azithromycin.
Because syphilis is such a serious disease, natural treatments for it are meant to be used in conjunction with your prescribed conventional treatment to manage symptoms and side effects from your medication, not to replace it. I recommend eating probiotics, vitamin B12, collagen, mugwort and ginger. Exercise, Epsom salts baths, massage therapy and a DIY aloe and lavender rash cream can also help ease symptoms.
- STDs are on the rise in the U.S., with a new 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2016.
- Half of the new cases are among young people ages 15–24.
- When STDs that don’t require reporting are factored in, the real number of STD cases is around 20 million.
- A lack of access to health care and education are contributing to the rise of STDs.
- Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are all treatable with antibiotics, but often don’t show symptoms. If left untreated, they can cause serious, long-lasting health effects, including death.
- All three can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms and side effects of treatment can be managed with natural treatments.
- After finishing treatment for these STDs, it’s critical to be re-tested again to ensure the infection is gone. Until you receive an “all clear” diagnosis, you should refrain from sexual activity.