Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium. It is one of the most common STI’s in the UK and is passed on through having unprotected sex with someone who has the disease. It is most common in young adults and teenagers who have sex without using a condom. It is recommended that if you are under 25 years old, you have a yearly check for chlamydia in an attempt to diagnose it before it causes problems.
How do I Know if I have Chlamydia?
Most people – particularly women – who contract chlamydia have no symptoms. This is why it is so important to have regular sexual health screens, to detect it at an early stage. If you do experience symptoms, they may be an unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, pain when urinating, abdominal pain and bleeding after sex in women, and swollen painful testes in men. Chlamydia can be passed on to the baby in women who have a chlamydia infection during pregnancy.
How Serious is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is all the more dangerous as it does not usually have any symptoms in women, but it can lead to many long-term conditions. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body. Untreated Chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women. This is a serious condition of the internal reproductive organs including the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Pelvic inflammatory disease is a common complication of chlamydia. It also doesn’t have many symptoms early on but left untreated it can lead to pain during urination, heavy and painful periods, yellow or green vaginal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, and bleeding between periods. As it develops further, it can lead to severe lower abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea and a fever. Pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to scarring and narrowing of the fallopian tubes – the tubes that move the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. This narrowing increases your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy – where the fertilised egg gets stuck in the fallopian tube and begins to develop into an embryo. This is a life-threatening complication. 1 in 10 women who have pelvic inflammatory disease will become infertile due to the condition. This is why it is so important to have regular chlamydia tests, so it can be treated before it reaches this point.
How do you get Tested for Chlamydia?
Being tested for chlamydia is quick and painless. A swab is taken from high in your vagina and is then examined for the bacteria that causes the disease. You can perform your own swab in most instances, and an internal examination by a doctor or nurse is often not needed. For men, the test involves a urine test. Testing is free at sexual health clinics or GP surgeries, or there are private clinics you can attend for rapid and discrete testing.
Chlamydia is treated with a single course of antibiotics. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure the infection is completely gone. You can significantly reduce your risk of contracting chlamydia by always practising safe sex and using a condom. If you have a positive diagnosis for chlamydia, it is important that your sexual partner is also treated, and that any recent sexual partners are contacted so they can receive treatment.