All you need to know about Chlamydia

Posted on by Dr Tony Steele Posted in All posts, Sexual Health

If you are sexually active you need to be responsible for your own sexual health; there is really no way to avoid it. Some of the best tools in the world of preventive medicine are knowledge and information, especially when it comes to STIs.

Whilst some medical conditions can be hard to prevent, others can be avoided with just a bit of precaution. Chlamydia is one of these illnesses.

According to data provided by the National Health Service, Chlamydia is the most common STI in the United Kingdom, with more than 200,000 cases reported in the year 2012. With such a high number of infections, it is important to prevent it or take the appropriate measures to eliminate it if you already have it.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual acts but can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth.

Whilst asymptomatic in most cases (50% of men, and 70-80% of women who have it will not show any symptoms) if left untreated it can have serious short and long term consequences. These include infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease in women and orchitis (swollen testicles) in men.

What are the most common symptoms?

A burning sensation when urinating and abnormal discharge (usually a white, cloudy or watery fluid) from the genitals are the most common symptoms of chlamydia in both men and women. The condition can also be acquired from anal and/or oral sex, which means this burning sensation can also be present in the rectum or throat of infected individuals.

Other common symptoms include pain in the lower abdomen, painful sexual relations and heavier than normal flow during menstruation. Some people may only experience these symptoms for several days, however diminishment of symptoms does not mean they are not infected.

If you experience any of the previously mentioned signs of chlamydia, even if they disappear on their own, you should immediately consult your GP to be tested. Chlamydia tests can also be bought from pharmacies and online.

If you are under twenty five years of age, the National Chlamydia Screening program is available to you, as well as other public health services. You can also use a testing kit.

Can I prevent it?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection, so naturally the best way to prevent it is to avoid unprotected sex.  Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting chlamydia or other sexually transmitted diseases. A male latex condom or female polyurethane condom significantly reduces the risk of infection, but neither can eliminate it completely. It is important to limit your number of sexual partners and get screened regularly to further reduce the risk of infection.

What if I already have it?

If you have already been diagnosed with chlamydia, keep in mind that it is a treatable medical condition. The antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline have proven effective for most cases. The standard treatment for chlamydia is doxycycline 100mg capsules twice daily for 7 days or (4) 250mg azithromycin tablets taken together (1000mg dose). If that fails to clear symptoms then further tests may need to be done. Serious side effects of the medications are uncommon, but there is a possibility of nausea and/or an upset stomach.

If you are being treated for chlamydia you should refrain from sexual relations to avoid transmitting the infection.

Preventing chlamydia is part of taking responsibility for your sexual health. By limiting your number of sexual partners, insisting your partners be tested and using barrier protection you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting it. However, it is a curable condition which when addressed promptly should not have any lasting effects.