Spotlight On: Sexually Transmitted Infections... Chlamydia
Over the last number of months, we’ve certainly learned a thing or two about the wide range of contraceptives that are available on the market today.
Now though, we are going to continue our focus on sexual health by studying a wide range of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In the first of our weekly series, we will take a look at chlamydia.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Ireland. It is caused by a bacteria (germ) called chlamydia trachomatis. It often has no symptoms and could be passed on to others without realising.
How do you get chlamydia?
The most common way to get chlamydia is by having unprotected sex with somebody who has been infected with chlamydia. The bacteria is present in semen and in vaginal fluids so it can be passed on during vaginal, oral, anal and skin-to- skin contact.
Using a condom during sex greatly reduces the risk of getting chlamydia.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
For 70% of women, and 50% of men, a chlamydia infection causes no symptoms at all. Symptoms, if they do occur, could consist of:
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain passing urine, or cystitis type symptoms
- Bleeding in between periods or irregular bleeding, bleeding after sex
- Abdominal pain or pelvic pain (lower tummy pain) especially when you have sex
- Men may have discharge from the urethra (tip of the penis) or pain passing urine
Does chlamydia cause any complications?
If left untreated in women, chlamydia could cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This may occur slowly and not cause any symptoms, but over time may cause damage to the fallopian tubes.
This can cause infertility (difficulty becoming pregnant) and persistent lower abdominal pain. If a person with PID does become pregnant, there is an increased risk that the pregnancy will occur outside the womb (ectopic pregnancy).
If a woman with untreated chlamydia gives birth, there is a risk that the new born baby could become infected with chlamydia while passing through the birth canal.
How do I get tested for chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be tested for by using a urine sample. Your GP, local STI clinics and Family Planning Clinics can arrange this for you.
Usually it is required that you do not pass urine for 90 minutes prior to doing the sample. Depending on what symptoms you have, it may also be necessary for the doctor to examine the vagina or the penis, or to take swabs from the cervix, vagina or penis.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is usually treated with a one-day antibiotic course. Make sure to tell the doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as this will affect the choice of antibiotic given.
You should not have sex with your partner for at least seven days after you have both been treated with the antibiotic.
All of your sexual partners over the previous six months should be notified so that they can be tested for chlamydia. Many clinics will contact these people anonymously on your behalf if you would rather not contact them yourself.
How can I prevent chlamydia?
To protect yourself from chlamydia always use a new condom and ensure it is correctly fitted each time you have sex.