Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections around and is caused by the presence of a tiny bacterium or one celled organism called the Chlamydia trachomatis. It is perhaps the most common STI due to the fact it can affect both men and women alike. However, it is with young women that the bacterium can do most harm, as the cervix is not at a fully developed stage and is therefore open to further infection. There are also no specific symptoms attached to Chlamydia which often results in the infection remaining undetected until serious complications emerge. Furthermore, Chlamydia can be transmitted not only through unprotected vaginal sex but also through anal and oral sex. A pregnant woman suffering from Chlamydia also risks passing the infection onto her child through birth. In some rare cases, the infection can be passed onto the fingers from the genitals and then onto the eyes.
While the infection does carry a set of identifiable symptoms, these can often be caused by other illnesses or disorders and therefore it is important to seek additional testing from a qualified Doctor.
For women, there are a number of symptoms. Initially, the bacterium will infect the cervix and urethra. There may be a notable change in the discharge of the vagina. When passing urine, you may also experience an uncomfortable burning sensation, due to an inflammation in the lining of the urinary bladder and ureters known as cystitis. The need to urinate may also be more frequent. From the cervix the infection will then spread to the fallopian tubes. At this stage, you may experience lower abdominal pain, back pain, bleeding between periods, pain during sex, feverish symptoms and some nausea. In an occurrence of these symptoms, a doctor should always be consulted.
In cases of male Chlamydia sufferers the infection often causes irregular discharge from the penis. In addition to this, you may experience mild irritation and inflammation around the tip of the penis. This irritation often disappears after a few days but this must be addressed with a qualified doctor and is often linked to the swelling and inflammation of the testicles.
Individuals that receive anal intercourse can contract Chlamydia in the rectum which manifests itself through pain, bleeding and some discharge. In instances of oral sex, the bacterium can also be found in the throats of sexual partners.
What can Chlamydia lead to?
For women, there are numerous consequences to leaving this type of infection untreated. The Chlamydia bacterium can cause damage to the fallopian tubes which carry eggs from the ovaries to the womb. The tubes can become blocked or completely stop working in some instances. Once blocked, this makes natural pregnancy almost impossible. There is also the new risk of pregnancy developing within the fallopian tubes, a condition known as ectopic pregnancy. This type of pregnancy can lead to the tubes rupturing causing both pain and some internal bleeding. You may also experience chronic pain in the lower abdomen, in some cases due to an infection of the region. These symptoms often indicate pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or pelvic infection, something suffered by around four in ten untreated female Chlamydia sufferers. It can cause permanent damage to the uterus, fallopian tubes and surrounding tissues and suspicions of any of these symptoms should be address in consultation with a doctor.
There is also the danger of mother to child transmission in pregnant women. The infection can be passed onto a child who can then experience eye or lung infections as a result.
Another disorder that women are at risk to is cervicitis. This is linked to women that experience yellow discharge from the vagina, as a result of Chlamydia. If left untreated the cervix can become very inflamed and cysts can then develop and become infected, which can lead to back and deep pelvic pain.
In males, the Chlamydia infection causes problems linked to fertility. Formally known as epididymitis, this is a swelling and inflammation of the testicles and tubes that transport sperm to the penis lead to pain and swelling around the scrotum area some fever like symptoms and in some cases, sterility. A disorder called urethritis is also linked to the infection. This occurs due to an inflammation of the urethra or urine tube which leads to abnormal discharge. If untreated these tubes can narrow which affects the ability to urinate as well as leading to potential kidney problems.
In some instances for both men and women the infection can lead to arthritis and joint inflammation. In rare cases Reiter’s syndrome can be contracted, whereby arthritis symptoms are accompanied by skin lesions and inflammation in the urethra and eye. There is also an increased risk of appendicitis
How is it diagnosed?
While the symptoms are not necessarily linked solely to the Chlamydia infection, once suspected, the method for testing is relatively straightforward. An examination of the genital area by a qualified doctor is recommended. Then with women, a urine sample and an internal pelvic examination is carried out. This is much like a smear test where a swab sample is taken from the cervix and all tested. In men, an external examination of the testicles is required and then a simple urine sample is required for testing. The testing should be completed within ten days.
How can I treat this?
Chlamydia can be treated through the use of one of two antibiotics. It is important, before undertaking any course of treatment, to ensure that any current partners are treated for the infection. Repeat of the Chlamydia infection can cause worse problems.
An antibiotic call azithromycin known also as Zithromax is the most straight forward treatment for the infection, requiring just a single dose for full effect.Tertracyclines offer an alternative. They are prescribed by doctors under the name doxycycle or vubramycin. This is a 100mg capsule which should be taken twice a day for seven days in order to experience the full effects. The use of condoms is advised as the best method of avoiding Chlamydia. If you and your partner decide to stop using condoms, it is advised that you have a check up for any STIs in order to avoid any spreading.
Where can I go?
A free national screening programme for Chlamydia is available to all those under the age of twenty five, when the infection is at its most dangerous for women.
Your doctor should be able to provide testing for the infection, as do family planning clinics. For younger sufferers, some outreach services such as youth centre and school based clinics, should be available for use. Genitourinary medicine clinics provide effecting screening tests for all STIs and operate on a walk in basis, with no appointment necessary. Many local planning centres may also sell sampling tests for use.
However, for those more private sufferers, testing is also available from many pharmacies. This is a route often explored by those over 25 and ineligible for the free national screening programme. Pharmacies usually stock the Clamelle Chlamydia testing and treatment kits with a tablet available containing the antibiotic azithromycin. This is also available without prescription.Some private labs and clinics offer a rapid screening service for those willing to pay, though they are not always recommended.
In recent years, we have seen the emergence of some online services. Customers simply purchase tests from websites. A pack will arrive in the post which provides the user with a container to then post back a urine sample for testing. Some local primary care trusts and organisations like the Brook charity offer these services for free online.
Guide to Contraception
- Cervical Cap
- Combined Pill
- Contraceptive Implants
- Contraceptive Injections
- Contraceptive Patch
- Female Condom
- Intrauterine Device (IUD)
- The Intrauterine System (IUS)
- Male Condom
- Male Vasectomy
- Progestogen only Pill (POP)
- Rhythm Method
- Withdrawal Method