Sexual Infections – Chlamydia

Written by Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe. In this article, we discuss one of the most common sexual infections – Chlamydia. Sexual activity provides satisfaction and enjoyment. So how do we end up with sexually transmitted infections like this?


Graphic showing sexually tranmission disease -  "STD'S 101"

Simply because the process of sexual activity allows the transfer of certain germs from one person – the carrier to another, the recipient.

Whatever form of sexual activity you engage in – and by that we mean – oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex etc – you are at risk of contracting a sexual infection if your partner has the disease.


Background

According to the WHO, the germs involved in the greatest transmission of sexual infections are 8 in number.

Of these, presently 4 are curable: Chlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, and Trichomoniasis


The other 4 causes are viral and incurable: Hepatitis B, Herpes Simplex Virus (Herpes), HIV,  and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV associated with genital warts and cervical cancer)

By incurable, we mean that we can control, but not eliminate the viral loads and symptoms using present-day treatments.

Today, let’s talk about Chlamydia.


What is Chlamydia?

It is an infection by a bacterial germ – Chlamydia trachomatis.

Studies indicate that it occurs most frequently in young people aged between ages 15 and 25 (or 30 years).

The best thing about Chlamydia – if you can call it that  – is that it is CURABLE.

The worst thing is that unlike some other sexual infections – it may not show any symptoms in a carrier.

So, if an individual has the infection and engages in unprotected sexual intercourse with one or more people, they could easily pass Chlamydia to any of them.

In the instances when you do get symptoms from Chlamydia, they may include:


Women  

  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Pain in the lower part of your tummy known as the pelvis – right above your pubic area
  • Bleeding after sex or in between your periods
  • Painful sex

Men

  • Urethral discharge
  • Pain when passing urine.

In addition to the reproductive tracts, Chlamydia can also cause infections in the eyes, throat and the anus/back passage.


Complications of Chlamydia infections

So if chlamydia doesn’t really cause symptoms most of the time – why should we worry about it?

Good question.

And the simple reason is – although it may not make you distressed with pain like Herpes or cause a really bad discharge like Gonorrhoea, it can quietly damage your sexual organs leading to future complications.

One other condition that does this (quietly damage organs while it proceeds undetected) is High Blood Pressure. Watch our video about this topic.

Now in women, Chlamydia can lead to infections in the upper part of the reproductive tract like the womb and the tubes; leading to problems like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

It can also cause Ectopic Pregnancy and Infertility.

Men can also be affected by infertility from infection of the testes.


Treatment

So this is why it is important that you KNOW about the existence of Chlamydia and your risk from catching it from sexual activity.

This helps us identify it quickly and TREAT it.

Testing for chlamydia is quite simple.

For men, we can either get an early morning urine sample (first catch urine) or carry out a urethral swab.

The former is preferred and quite sensitive for identifying Chlamydia infection in men.

In women, a self-taken vulvovaginal swab is used.

Previously, your doctor would use a speculum to get a swab from inside the cervix, but the self-collected swabs have been shown to be more sensitive and of course, preferred by patients.

If you test positive for Chlamydia infection, your doctor will issue you an appropriate course of antibiotics depending on your medical background and allergy status.

It is also good to note that when you are tested for Chlamydia, your doctor will also check for other sexually transmitted infections such as Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Trichomoniasis etc.


Common Questions around Treatment

  1. When can I have sex again?
    • We usually advise you to complete your treatment before you resume sexual activity, or use condoms if you have sex while on treatment.
    • Whatever the case, with new partners, ALWAYS use a condom.
  2. What about my partner or ex-partner or ex-ex partner? Really important! The germ cannot exist outside of a living host.
    • It was transmitted from another person so if possible, you should direct them to get tested and treated.
    • In some countries, there are discreet methods of partner notification which help in locating ex-partners but keeping the identity of the initial contact confidential
  3. Can I get the Chlamydia infection again? 
    • Absolutely yes – if you expose yourself and do not practice safe sex.
  4. Should I be re-tested?
    • Now, we don’t usually recommend testing again after you have completed treatment.
    • Sometimes the test can still detect residual traces of the germ in your system even  4 -5 weeks after it has been cleared.
    • Thus the test may ‘falsely’ claim you are positive when really, you are not.
    • But if we suspect the person has not taken the medication properly or they continue to have symptoms, then yes, we will re-test.

The Last Word

Finally, we cannot overemphasize the importance of condoms in preventing sexual infections.

There are male and female condoms.

A lot of design work is going into making condoms acceptable to many more people to use because they are quite honestly the best barrier to sexual infections transmitted via sexual intercourse.

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments section below. If you have a specific question in this area, send us a direct message:

More Reading:

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org

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