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Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can infect both men and women. It is almost twice as common in women than men.
In Singapore, it is the most common bacteria sexually transmitted disease which is caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis.
How Chlamydia is spread
You can get chlamydia by having vagina, anal and oral sex. Infections can also occur when partners share sex toys that have become contaminated with the bacteria.
You cannot get Chlamydia from :
- Hugging or holding hands
- Sharing food or drinks
- Using a toilet after someone else
Effects of Chlamydia
Chlamydia infections are very treatable and curable. It is important to receive treatment as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.
Chlamydia effects on women
If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system, resulting in infertility. It also increases her chance of ectopic pregnancy in future, this is a non-viable pregnancy that occurs outside the womb.
Catching Chlamydia during pregnancy
Chlamydia infection in pregnancy is also potentially dangerous. It can increase the risk of premature birth and still birth.
Babies born to women with chlamydia can be infected in the eyes and lungs when passing through the birth canal.
Now the biggest challenge to treatment remains in the diagnosis. Because Chlamydia is called the silent infection. About 70% of ladies and 50% of men do not show symptoms.
And even if there were symptoms, they would only show up weeks after initial exposure. As a result there is delayed diagnosis and uninterrupted rapid transmission from individuals to individuals.
Chlamydia symptoms in men
When symptoms do occur in men :
- Burning sensation when passing urine
- Discharge from the penis
- Increased frequency of urination
- Pain in the testicles
Chlamydia symptoms in Females
In Females, symptoms include :
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Abnormal inter menstrual vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pain
- Pain on passing urine
You can however reduce the chance of catching this infection by
- Being in a long term monogamous relationship with your partner
- Using condoms the right way every time you have sex.
The groups of patients who are at higher risk of chlamydia infections include
- Sexually active young individuals ( generally younger than 25 years old )
- Gay and bisexual men
- Patients who have a history of STDs
Hence you should get yourself routinely tested even if you have no symptoms if you are a sexually active young adult or if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners or sexual workers.
Chlamydia Diagnosis and Treatment
Firstly, a urine PCR test followed by a swab test can also be done from the affected area.
When the diagnosis has been confirmed, It can be treated with a course of antibiotics like doxycycline or azithromycin.
It can be easily transmitted between sexual partners, as such, it is advisable that your partner is tested and treated at the same time to avoid re-infections. It is important also to recognise that you may get repeated chlamydia infection in future even if you have been treated and recovered fully this time round.
Sexual activities should also cease until you have finished your medications and your sexual partner has also been treated.
Usually when someone is tested for chlamydia infection, it would also be encouraged to screen for the other sexually transmitted infections like Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, HIV and Hepatitis B & C.Take note that having chlamydia infection can increase your risk of getting HIV. Understand that chlamydia is a dangerous sexually transmittable infection as there are often no symptoms. The potential complications when left untreated can be far reaching.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)