Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United Kingdom. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the sexual organs; this infection is passed on from one person to another through unprotected sex (sex without a condom) and is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults. It does not matter whether you are male or female, part of the LGBTQ community, or heterosexual, if you are sexually active and do not take necessary precautions you are increasing your risk of a chlamydia infection. Presently, under twenty-fives' (25's) account for 65% of the UK's chlamydia infections, which means young people are at high risk of contracting this infection.
It is estimated that approximately 50% of men and 70-80% of women will not notice any symptoms of the infection. If you do get symptoms, these usually appear between one and three weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person. Although for some people they may not develop until many months later. In some instances, the symptoms can disappear after a few days. Even if the symptoms disappear you may still have the infection and will be able to pass it on. If you do develop symptoms, please see the relevant section below for information on what you may experience.
At least 70% of women with chlamydia do not notice any symptoms. If they do get symptoms, the most common include:
If chlamydia is left untreated, it can spread to the womb and cause a serious condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Which can be a major cause of ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
If you have chlamydia and it is not treated whilst you are pregnant, there is a chance you could pass the infection on to your baby. If this happens, your baby may develop an eye infection (conjunctivitis) and a lung infection (pneumonia). If your baby has symptoms of these conditions, P&S Chemist, your midwife, or doctor can arrange for a test to check for chlamydia and antibiotics can be used to treat the infection.
Untreated chlamydia in pregnancy may also increase the risk of your baby being born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or with low birth weight, and might mean you are more likely to have a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Symptoms in Men
At least half of all men with chlamydia do not notice any symptoms. If they do get symptoms, the most common include:
If chlamydia is left untreated, the infection can cause swelling in the epididymis (the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles) and the testicles, causing them to become painful and swollen. This is known as epididymitis or epididymo-orchitis, which can affect your fertility. Chlamydia is also the most common cause of sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA). This is when your joints, eyes or urethra (the tube urine uses to leave the body) become inflamed, this usually occurs within the first few weeks after contracting chlamydia. Currently, there is no cure for SARA, but most people get better in a few months. During this time treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) such as ibuprofen can help to alleviate the symptoms.
What does the Chlamydia Test Involve?
The only way to find out you have chlamydia is to get tested. Testing can take place whether or not you have developed symptoms. If you live in England, are under twenty-five (25), and are sexually active, it is recommended that you get tested every year or when you change your sexual partner, as you are more likely to catch chlamydia. It is also worth being aware that if you are under the age of twenty-five (25), then the test for chlamydia is free, if you are over twenty-five, it is a paid service.
There are two simple, painless, and historically reliable ways to test for chlamydia. Both involve sending a sample of cells to a laboratory for analysis. The collection of these samples does not have to be conducted by your doctor or nurse, as they can be done by yourself, as discussed below:
As no test is 100% accurate there is a small chance that the test will give a negative result when you do have the infection. This is known as a false-negative result. This can sometimes explain why you might get different results when you go to a different clinic to have another test or why you and a partner might get different test results. It is possible for the test to be positive if you have not got chlamydia, but this is rare.
Your results will normally be available after seven to ten days. If there is a high chance you have chlamydia, for example, you have symptoms of the infection or your partner has been diagnosed with it and you have had unprotected sex with them - you might be advised to start treatment before you get your results.
Treatment for Chlamydia
Chlamydia is effectively treated with antibiotics. Most often these are prescribed once the test results have confirmed you have chlamydia. Although, in some instances, where it is extremely likely that you have the infection, you may be started on treatment before you get your results. If you take the treatment according to the instructions, it is over 95% effective at treating genital chlamydia. The two most commonly prescribed antibiotics for chlamydia are:
At times you may be given different antibiotics, for example, Amoxicillin or Erthromycin, if you suffer from an allergy or are pregnant. Please remember it is important to inform your doctor or our pharmacist at P&S Chemist if you are pregnant, or think you might be, or if you are breastfeeding, as this may affect the type of antibiotic that you are given. Unfortunately, some people may experience side effects during treatment for Chlamydia, but these are usually mild. The most common side-effects include Stomach pains, diarrhoea, feeling sick, treatment can also cause vaginal thrush in women.
Once you have started your treatment you should notice an improvement quite quickly. Discharge or pain when urinating should improve within a week. Bleeding between periods or heavier periods should improve by your next period. Pelvic pain and pain in the testicles should start to improve quickly but may take up to two weeks to go away.
If you have pelvic pain or painful sex that does not improve, see your doctor or nurse as it may be necessary to have some further treatment or to investigate other possible causes of the pain.
It is also important that your current sexual partner and any additional sexual partners you have had during the past six months are also tested and treated. Our pharmacist at P&S Chemist, who is a qualified sexual health advisor, can help you to contact your recent sexual partners if you would prefer.
When can I have Sex again?
As a rule, you should not have sex; this includes vaginal, oral or anal sex, even with a condom - until both you and your partner have completed treatment. If you are given the one-day course of Azithromycin, it is important to remember that you should avoid having sex for a week after treatment. This will help ensure you do not pass on the infection or catch it again straight away.
It is also worth noting that if you have taken your antibiotics correctly, you may not need to return to the clinic. Although, it is advised that you should go back for another chlamydia test if you have had sex before you and your partner had completed your treatment. Or, if you did not take your medication correctly, or even forgot to take your medication. If your symptoms persist or you were treated for chlamydia whilst pregnant, it is highly recommended that you take another test.
If you think you are at risk of having an STI or have any symptoms of chlamydia, visit us at P&S Chemist, your doctor, or alternatively your community contraceptive service, such as Bewize.