What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacteria-like organism, which can be sexually transmitted. Recent figures from the Department of Health show a dramatic rise in the number of cases diagnosed from 1995 onwards.
Between half and three-quarters of a million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are thought to have been infected. It is estimated that 10% of all sexually active young people are currently infected with chlamydia.
What are the symptoms?
Seventy per cent of infected females, and 50% of infected males have no symptoms at all. This is why so few people seek treatment, and why the spread of the disease has been so rampant. Early symptoms relate to infection of the urethra in men (penile discharge or discomfort on passing urine), and infection of the urethra or cervix in women.
The 30% of women that do experience symptoms may notice cystitis-like symptoms or a slight increase in vaginal discharge. Bleeding between periods, bleeding after intercourse, or discomfort during intercourse may arise if the cervix becomes very inflamed. Recent figures from the Department of Health show a dramatic rise in the number of cases diagnosed.
How does it affect fertility?
If left untreated, the infection can lie dormant for several months before travelling through the cervix to infect the fallopian tubes, leading to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This can cause symptoms such as low abdominal pain, fever and painful sex. However, many women have a less acute inflammation that produces few if any symptoms. If untreated, PID can lead to blockage of the fallopian tubes and subsequent infertility.
Chlamydia is now the commonest cause of PID, which is thought to affect more than 165,000 women a year. It is estimated that 25% of all cases of infertility are due to chlamydia infection.
Approximately 10% of all women who contract chlamydia will become infertile as a result of PID. This equates to 30,000 women a year becoming infertile.
The peak age for chlamydia infection in women is between 16 and 19 years.
What's the treatment?
It is important that chlamydia is diagnosed and treated before PID develops. Genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics are the best-equipped places for making an accurate diagnosis. Infection in males is diagnosed from a urethral swab, and infection in females is diagnosed from a cervical swab and a urethral swab. Once diagnosed, the infection is very effectively treated with antibiotics, which the GUM clinic can provide.
Call Sexual Health Direct for information on your nearest GUM clinic: 020 7837 4044