Rates of Syphilis, Gonorrhea And Chlamydia Climb In San Diego

Sexually transmitted diseases on rise in San Diego

Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in San Diego and all over the United States, according to latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stats.  Rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are climbing.

The CDC reports that nearly 2.3 million US cases of sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017.  That's the highest number that has ever been reported nationwide, even breaking records set in 2016 by more than 200,000 cases.


San Diego County health officials reported that rates of chlamydia rose by about 8% from 2015-2016 to 18,904 cases total. Chlamydia remains the most common STD reported and is easily transmitted during any form of sexual activity.  It can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can lead to permanent damage to the reproductive system.  In men, the infection can spread to the tube that carries the sperm from the testicles which can cause pain and fever.

Symptoms are usually undetectable but can include:

  • Pain or burning while peeing
  • Pain during sex
  • lower belly pain
  • abnormal vaginal discharge (may be yellowish or have strong smell)
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pus or watery/ milky discharge from penis
  • Swollen or tender testicles
  • Pain, discharge and or bleeding around the anus

Chlamydia can also infect your eyes in which case you may have redness, itching or discharge.  In some cases it can cause sore throat issues.


Syphilis cases are up almost 7% with a total of 523 new cases.  Syphilis can affect the heart, nervous system and other organs if left untreated.  Syphilis is most often transmitted through sexual contact.

There are four different stages of syphilis and the symptoms can vary depending on what stage you're in.  You can also have the disease for years and not have any symptoms at all.  

Stage one (primary syphilis)

Approximately 10 days - 3 months after exposure, you may first notice that the lymph nodes near your groin.  You may see a small painless sore at the spot in which the bacteria entered your body.    It will heal itself in just a few weeks but this doesn't mean the infection is gone, it just means that your body is going to enter stage two of syphilis.

Secondary syphilis

About 2-10 weeks after the first sore appears you may also develop the following:

  • A skin rash that causes reddish brown sores
  • Sores in your mouth, vagina or anus
  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • weight loss
  • hair loss
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • muscle aches

These symptoms will also go away but it doesn't mean that you are fine.  The infection is still alive in your body and you are still able to infect your sexual partners.

Latent syphilis

If you haven't already been treated, the disease will continue to progress. Not everyone will go through this phase and you could go years without having any symptoms at all. The infection isn't gone and only progressing to the tertiary stage.

Tertiary Stage

This is the most severe stage of syphilis and it can appear 10-30 years after initial infection.  You can experience severe organ damage and or death.  Complications can include:

  • Neurological problems
  • stroke
  • infection and inflammation in the brain and surrounding spinal cord
  • Numbness
  • deafness
  • blindness
  • personality changes
  • dementia
  • aneurism


Gonorrhea has had the highest local increase and is up 35% to 4,992 cases.  If not treated, gonorrhea can cause severe and permanent health issues, including problems with the prostate and testicles or infertility problems in women. 

The threat of an antibiotic-resistant strain persists nationwide.  If gonorrhea becomes resistant to antibiotics it could become an untreatable STD.

Gonorrhea doesn't always have symptoms, so most people don't even know they have it.  But here are some signs that can be present:

  • Pain or burning when you pee
  • Abnormal discharge from your vagina that can be yellowish or bloody
  • Bleeding between periods

Men are more likely to have symptoms:

  • Yellow, white, or green discharge from your penis
  • Pain or burning when you pee
  • Pain or swelling in your testicles

Gonorrhea can also infect your anus if you have anal sex and it can also spread from your anus to another part of your body.

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