What Are Reproductive Tract Infections?
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Reproductive Tract Infections - Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Sep 06, 2022   -  5 min read


Reproductive tract infections and their complications have a wide-ranging impact on a person's general health and well-being, impacting both men and women equally.


Reproductive tract infections (RTIs) are found worldwide, more prevalent in underdeveloped nations. RTIs are considered second as a public health issue, whereas maternal mortality is first. RTI might cause severe problems like infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and endometriosis in the long run.

What Are Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs)?

Reproductive tract infections (RTIs) are infections of the genital tract. They are classified into three types based on their cause as follows:

  1. Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

  2. Various fungi and bacteria thrive naturally on human skin and inside the body. They and the immune system have a delicate equilibrium that prevents them from wreaking havoc. However, if the balance is tipped, the bacteria or fungus can become out of control and create an infection. Endogenous infections are caused by the overgrowth of otherwise typically occurring microorganisms, for example, candidiasis (fungal infection caused by candida species) and vaginosis (bacterial infection of the vagina).

  3. Iatrogenic infections are caused by a health professional when proper surgery protocol has not been followed in procedures such as abortion and delivery.

Why Is It Important to Know About Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI's)?

RTIs (reproductive tract infections) are complex and have a global spread. RTI refers to a group of illnesses that may be treated with simple medicines and infections that are unlikely to be cured. Thus, it is critical to recognize RTIs to reduce their occurrence and seek medical care to avoid significant problems. Social, behavioral, and economic factors influence RTI transmission and incidence.

Which Are the Most Commonly Seen Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI's)?

The most common RTIs in women are:

The most common RTIs in men are:

  • HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus).

  • Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra).

  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland).

  • Epididymitis (inflammation of the tube that carries sperm).

What Are the Symptoms of Reproductive Tract Infections?

Reproductive tract infections (RTIs) are a group of disorders that bacteria, fungi, or viruses can cause. As a result, the causal factor determines the condition's representation. In any case, there are a few RTI symptoms that occur regardless of the source; they are as follows:

  • Foul vaginal discharges.

  • Rashes or sores.

  • Pain during urination (dysuria).

  • An abnormal quantity of vaginal discharge.

  • Strange consistency and color of vaginal discharge.

  • Pain in the lower abdomen.

  • Pain during intercourse.

  • Persistent bleeding after intercourse.

  • Bleeding in between of the menstrual cycle.

  • Dark penile discharge.

  • Anal itching.

  • Irritation in the scrotum region.

  • Swollen and painful testicles.

How to Prevent RTI?

A comprehensive approach is required to eliminate reproductive tract infections. Prevention of RTI is done at two levels.

  1. Level one - Education and communication.

  • Including sex education in the curriculum where teenagers can receive support education about safe sex.

  • Protected sex (use of condoms).

  • Encourage monogamous relationships (limitation in the number of sex partners).

For medical professionals: Follow standard operating protocol to avoid iatrogenic RTIs.

2. Level two - Prompt identification and effective treatment of RTI.

Can RTI Only Be Transferred Sexually?

No. Sexual transmission, which includes penetrative sex, kissing, and digital stimulation is the most prevalent way for reproductive tract infections to spread. RTI can be caused by various factors, including blood transfusions, skin contact, and poor hygiene.

What Are the Tests Done to Confirm RTI?

Increased numbers of commonly seen bacteria are used to diagnose endogenous RTI. The following are some of the tests that are frequently used to rule out RTI:

  1. Microscopy with a wet mount: Aids in diagnosing trichomoniasis, vaginosis, and yeast infection.

  2. Gram stain microscopy: Vaginal smears are examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of bacteria, fungus, and viruses. Syphilis tests, including treponemal and nontreponemal. Treponemal assays, such as haemagglutination and antibody absorption tests, can be performed as a screening test to identify the syphilis-causing bacteria "Treponema pallidum." For confirmation, non-treponemal assays like RPR (rapid plasma reagin) and VDRL(venereal disease research laboratory test) can be used.

What Is the Treatment of RTI?

More than 30 species of bacteria can cause reproductive tract infections. The treatment of RTI is directed at the causative organism; after performing specific tests, a suitable antibiotic regimen or a combination of antibiotics are prescribed to reduce the bacterial load, other palliative remedies can be objected to providing symptomatic relief, e.g., use of lactic acid-based care products to maintain the PH of the vagina.

What Happens if RTI is Left Untreated?

The consequences of Reproductive tract infections are life-threatening. Although RTI can affect both women and men, severe effects are seen in women compared to men.

RTIs can cause pregnancy problems such as

Ectopic Pregnancy: When a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the central cavity of the uterus, it is called an ectopic pregnancy. The inner lining of the fallopian tubes is generally covered with cilia, which are tiny hair-like projections. Cilia are necessary for a smooth egg passage from the ovary to the Fallopian tube and into the uterus. The RTIs damage or obstruct the Fallopian tubes, resulting in an ectopic pregnancy.

Stillbirth: The fetus could be infected directly through the placenta or membranes, with the germs causing damage to crucial maternal or fetal organs like the lung or heart that might cause stillbirth.

Septic Abortion: Septic abortion is a dangerous uterine infection that occurs during or after an abortion. Induced abortions performed by inexperienced practitioners using nonsterile procedures are the most common cause of septic abortions.

Direct transmission of RTIs contributes to congenital disabilities as well.

RTIs, if not treated, can also lead to maternal death and death of newborns in extreme cases.

What Do You Mean by Partner Notification?

Partner notification is a public health service that notifies the partners of people diagnosed with reproductive tract infections like HIV. The partners of these individuals are informed about the possible risks and provided with appropriate treatment and counseling. The main goal of partner notification is to break the chain of transmission and re-infection.

Is painful sex a sign of a reproductive tract infection?

Molluscum contagiosum is a sexually transmitted pox virus illness. It commonly manifests as genital warts, and it causes intercourse to be painful. As a result, persistent soreness during sexual activity should not be overlooked.


The combination of stigma related to sexual health and very little accessibility and social awareness towards sexual health compels the population of developing countries to restrain themselves from getting tested for reproductive tract infections. Adolescents and teenagers are most commonly affected as they are deprived of sex education, and they live by merely relying on condoms as the safest sex practice. It is now time to overcome this taboo and educate the generation that it is advisable to get tested bi-annually if sexually active. The mere addition of STDs in the curriculum is not enough, and it is advisable to state the possible causes and treatment options available in the country. And the most important message is that reproductive tract infections are not always caused due to sexual interactions. There are various reasons for it.

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Last reviewed at:
06 Sep 2022  -  5 min read




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