Chlamydia 'the silent infection': Put yourself in the clear
The most common sexually transmitted disease in the UK, affecting one in ten people aged 15 to 24, Chlamydia affects several thousand people across Sheffield every year.
Yet, the majority of people with Chlamydia do not know they are infected.
Half of men who have the disease and 75 per cent of infected women do not experience any symptoms and as a result, continue living with Chlamydia, unknowingly risking their health.
Dr Kristina Irwin, GP at the Central Sheffield GP Consortium with a special interest in Sexual Health, explains:
Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacteria found in the semen and vaginal fluids of men and women that have the infection.
Symptoms are relatively rare. Women can experience bleeding in between periods or after sex, lower abdominal pain, painful sex, pain when passing urine or an unusual vaginal discharge.
For men, the symptoms can include discharge from the end of the penis, pain when passing urine or pain in the testicles.
If the disease is detected early, it can be treated quickly and easily with a course of antibiotics. However, as symptoms are rare, Chlamydia can often go undetected for long periods of time, risking further complications.
The infection can then move up the genital tract and cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women – a painful condition that can lead to blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes that take the egg to your womb each month).
This in turn can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy which develops in the tube because the fertilised egg didn’t reach the womb). This can be very serious and even life-threatening.
In men it can cause infection of the testicles and possibly reduced fertility.
So how can you protect yourself from Chlamydia?
When it comes to Chlamydia the main message is - Look after yourself! Get tested! Use condoms!
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and like all STI’s, the use of condoms dramatically reduces transfer from one person to another.
But the only real way to ensure you don’t contract the infection is for both partners to get themselves tested at the beginning of the relationship, before they start having sex. It’s very easy to get tested - through a urine sample or a vaginal or cervical swab test.
If you are under 25 you can take part in the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (www.chlamydiascreening.nhs.uk ). You can pick up a self-testing kit from GP surgeries, colleges, youth clubs, sexual health (family planning) clinics or NHS walk in centre.
It’s completely confidential and you'll be phoned or texted with your result about ten days later. Under 25s are advised to have a Chlamydia test every year if they are sexually active, and sooner if they change partner.
Over 25s (and under 25s if they wish) can have free confidential Chlamydia tests from their GP, practice nurse, sexual health clinic, or Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Department.
For more information about Chlamydia in Sheffield visit http://www.allclearsheffield.nhs.uk.
For Sheffield Contraception and Sexual Health Central Health Clinic (Mulberry Street), visit www.scash.nhs.uk
Department of GU Medicine Hallamshire hospital – 0114 2766 928.