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How to manage Chlamydia infection

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Dr Rotimi Adesanya

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called ‘Chlamydia trachomatis’. It affects both men and women, and it’s spread by having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person who has the infection. It is also transferred to the new born from infected mothers.

Most people who have Chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms and so they don’t know they have it. Research suggests that 50% of men and 70-80% of women don’t get symptoms at all with a Chlamydia infection. They can pass it to others without knowing it. If a pregnant woman has Chlamydia, it can be passed to her baby during birth.

Symptoms

A big problem with Chlamydia is that it often produces no symptoms, and if left undetected and untreated, complications can occur. People who have Chlamydia can still transmit the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms themselves. When symptoms do occur, they may not appear until several weeks after having sex with an infected person.
Women: They frequently develop abdominal or chronic pelvic pain, and the continued spread of the disease. Other symptoms are burning with urination, an abnormal vaginal discharge, blood in the urine, urinary urgency (feeling an urgent need to urinate), and increased urinary frequency can occur if the urethra is infected.
Men: Chlamydia can be difficult to spot in men because the symptoms are rare and not consistent between men, more common symptoms include a white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis, difficulty or pain during urination, swollen and sore testicles.
New born: Pregnant women who are infected with Chlamydia can pass the infection to their baby during birth, which could result in the baby developing conjunctivitis (eye infections) and pneumonia (chest infections).

Complications

Women: If it isn’t treated, the infection can sometimes spread to other parts of the body and lead to serious long-term health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy (in which a pregnancy develops outside the uterus, such as in the fallopian tubes) and infertility (not being able to have children), due to infection and scarring of the fallopian tubes.
Men: If left untreated, Chlamydia can cause internal scarring of the genitals, a lower sperm count with less fertile sperm, and can lead to additional health conditions.
Newborn: Chlamydia can lead to blindness or complicated pneumonia in the newborn baby.

Diagnosis

If you think there’s a chance you might have Chlamydia, getting tested early on is important, and so is avoiding spreading it to others. Testing for Chlamydia is done with a urine test for men or women have a urine test or a swab taken from the cervix or vagina. Chlamydia treatment normally involves antibiotic treatment

Treatment

Chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. If your doctor does detect chlamydia, the infection can usually be treated with special class of antibiotics. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure the infection. When taken properly it will stop the infection and could decrease your chances of having complications later on. It is advisable for infected persons to avoid having sex while taking the antibiotics for a week so that he or she does not pass on the infection to someone else or become re-infected. It is recommended that the infected person do another test for Chlamydia 3 months later to make sure there is no re-infection. Anyone who has had sex with person with Chlamydia infection in the past 6 months should also be tested and may need treatment at the same time. This is called contact tracing. As Chlamydia is transmitted through unprotected sex, the doctor may suggest you be screened for other sexually transmitted infections and if necessary, you and your partner(s) treated.

Prevention

Having oral sex or anal sex with someone who has the infection can result in infection of the throat or the rectum, causing pain and a discharge of pus or mucus could be pain when you urinate, an unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or rectum or, in women, bleeding between periods or after sex. One can help prevent being infected with Chlamydia (and other sexually transmitted infections) by practising safe sex. This means using a condom when having vaginal or anal sex and using a condom. The Universal method of prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is the ‘ABC’tip.
• A–Abstinence
• B–Be Faithful to a partner who is also faithful to you
• C—Condoms: Use them correctly.

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