Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom and the USA. Left untreated, it can cause a range of damage to the body including a decrease in the body’s immunity. Permanent changes to the central nervous system, and asthma and allergies. More commonly, it can seriously damage the reproductive organs, leaving a woman infertile by infecting the urethra and cervix. Also, scarring of the reproductive tract and damaging the quality of sperm in men.
Chlamydia largely infects without symptoms. Infected people can live with it for years without knowing, allowing it to cause damage to internal organs unnoticed until symptoms appear, which can be years later in some cases. 75% of women with chlamydia will not show symptoms, and it is women who suffer the most severe consequences of the disease.
Symptoms of an infection can include bleeding after intercourse, pain or a burning sensation when passing urine, pelvic pain, vaginal discharge and bleeding between periods.
Symptoms in men include testicular pain and discomfort, pain or burning when passing urine, and red or itchy eyes. If people do show signs of a chlamydia infection, usually the symptoms appear within 2-21 days of unprotected sexual intercourse. The symptoms will usually then disappear. However, this does not mean that the infection has passed, the bacteria will continue to infect the internal organs.
This transmitted infection is spread through unprotected sexual intercourse. It is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults. This makes the disease particularly dangerous, as many people of this age have not yet had babies, and as the disease causes damage to the reproductive organs, their future fertility is at serious risk.
Detecting chlamydia is relatively quick and easy. A urine test can be performed, with the urine being sent to the laboratory for inspection to see if there are any bacterial cells from chlamydia present. Swab cultures can be taken from the vagina, rectum, urethra or cervix to be examined for the chlamydia cells. It is not a blood-borne disease, and so a blood test will not confirm a positive diagnosis of chlamydia.
Finding out you have chlamydia can be frightening and confusing. You may have any questions or worry about any potential damage that may have been done. It is important to be tested for chlamydia regularly if you are sexually active. Especially if you have multiple sexual partners or engage in unprotected sex. You can reduce your chances of catching chlamydia by not having sex. Also, limiting your sexual partners and ensuring you always use a condom during any sexual contact.
Chlamydia treatment involves taking antibiotics that specifically target the chlamydia bacterial cells. Sexual partners should also be treated to prevent the chance of being re-infected. After taking the antibiotics, you should not have sex for 7 days, and until any symptoms have cleared.
Following treatment, it is recommended that you are retested in three months to ensure the infection has cleared. Whilst chlamydia treatment can stop the bacteria spreading and causing any further damage, the antibiotics cannot reverse any damage that may have already been caused by the infection.
This is why it is important that anyone that is sexually active receives regular screening for the disease. Early detection can ensure that antibiotics are given rapidly before the disease has had the chance to spread and cause damage to the internal organs.