Chlamydia – everything you need to know.

National statistics show that chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the numbers of people with chlamydia are rising, especially in the under 25s.

This is because many people don’t have symptoms and pass the infection on to others.  When the infection lives for a long time in a ‘host’ then it can cause long-term complications, including infertility.

In this article we’re going to look at the symptoms, treatment and complications of untreated chlamydia.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

About one quarter of the people with chlamydia don’t have any symptoms.  This is dangerous for their own health as well as the health of the people they could unknowingly infect.

Symptoms in women include:

  • Burning when passing urine
  • Pain when having sex
  • Discharge from the rectum/anus (back passage)
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal pain.

Symptoms in men include:

  • Burning when passing urine
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Discharge from the rectum/anus (back passage)
  • Pain in the rectum/anus
  • Tenderness or pain in the testicles.

What tests will the doctor do for chlamydia?

The doctor will take samples of secretions/discharge from the vagina in women and from the end of the penis in men. S/he will also take samples from the rectum/anus if you have had anal sex.

You may also be asked to give a urine sample for testing.

These samples are sent to the lab for testing to confirm the diagnosis.  The tests are about 90% accurate so you may still have chlamydia even if the test is negative.  Your doctor will discuss this with you and may give you treatment for chlamydia if you are thought to be at risk from it.

Your doctor may also recommend screening for other STIs while you’re at the clinic as have one STI puts you at risk of having others at the same time.

What is the treatment for chlamydia?

Treatment is straightforward.  It’s with an antibiotic; either tetracycline (Sumycin is an example of a brand name), or erythromycin (Erymax, Aknemycin or Erycin), or azithromycin (Azasite, Zmax).

You should not have sex while being treated or for 7 days after the treatment so that you can be sure the infection has cleared.

Your doctor may want to see you again to make sure the infection has gone completely.

Women should tell their doctor if they are, or think the may be pregnant as this can alter the antibiotic the doctor prescribes.

Men and women should have their partner(s) treated also.  If you don’t want to contact partner(s) then a specialist sexual health clinic can do this for you, and you will stay anonymous.

There is no immunity if you’ve had the disease and been treated – you’re as likely as anyone else to become re-infected.

What causes chlamydia?

Sexual contact with an infected person spreads the infection, which is a bacteria.  Vaginal or anal sex spreads the infection.

Very rarely the bacteria can cause an infection in the eye, throat or lungs.

Who gets chlamydia?

Men and women, gay and straight, can get chlamydia.

It’s more common in the under 25 year age group but any sexually active person of any age can get it.

The more sexual partners you have the more at risk from chlamydia (and other STIs) you become.

What’s the outcome for people with chlamydia?

Treatment is successful and should get rid of the infection. If you still have symptoms after treatment then see your doctor and don’t have sex until you know you’re clear.

Having had the infection doesn’t make you immune to having it again.

How can I prevent chlamydia?

use condomsThe best way to prevent chlamydia is by not having sex.

Condoms used correctly will protect against many STIs including chlamydia.

How will chlamydia affect me?

An untreated infection can live in the body for many years and won’t go unless it’s treated.  This untreated infection can cause

  • infertility in men and women.  The infection causes scaring in the Fallopian tubes and in the male reproductive system.  This reduces the chance of the man’s sperm and woman’s egg meeting and fertilising.
  • problems with pregnancy – miscarriage, still birth, premature birth
  • ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg develops in the Fallopian tube which can cause life-threatening problems for a woman.

This article has more on chlamydia:

And this article from Medline Plus has more on chlamydia in men.

If you’re worried about your symptoms or medical problem but don’t want to seek professional help because you feel embarrassed, silly or that it’s your fault in some way, read this page now:  How to talk to a doctor about an embarrassing problem

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