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BN Doctors’ Lounge: Chlamydia

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Black doctorsDoctor, so what are you saying? That I can never have kids of my own? Doctor, no, please, do something, please!!!”
So sad. I slip into the doldrums each time I have to have this conversation with patients with blocked fallopian tubes or dead and immotile sperm cells. The culprit? Chlamydia!

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 2 sexually active adults will have had a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) by age 25. Chlamydia is currently the most common STI, probably due to the fact that it often presents with no symptoms. In the light of the HIV/AIDS scourge, this very common and dangerous disease has gone ignored; secretly invading reproductive organs and snatching kids from hopeful would- have- been parents.

What is Chlamydia?
It is an STI caused by a tiny bacterium chlamydia trachomatis, which was originally identified as a virus.
In women, chlamydia usually affects the cervix and uterus (the womb). In men, it usually affects the urethra in the penis. The infection is acquired through unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person, transmitted through all sexual routes; vaginal, oral, anal.
If left untreated, chlamydia causes long-term complications in men, like inflammation of the fine tubes that take sperm from the testicles to the penis. It can result in blockage of these tubes with scar tissue formation, causing a reduction in sperm count, motility and morphology.
In women, the bacterium can creep upwards to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing permanent damage to them over many months or years. Long-term chlamydial infection can cause the tubes to gradually scar and become blocked, inhibiting fertilization. Chlamydia results in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which is a grave concern not only because of its effect on fertility but also due to the risk of a tubal or ectopic pregnancy.

Symptoms of Chlamydia
Chlamydia is known as a ‘silent’ infection because most infected people have no symptoms and it’s quite unnerving to think that there’s a disease out there with no ‘warning signs’. It’s even more disturbing to know that it is the most common STI (can’t say this enough), affecting as much as 1 in 14 sexually active adults.
In a lucky few, symptoms do occur (lucky because at least they get prompted to seek treatment), however, they may not appear until several weeks after exposure.

Symptoms in Women
• Vaginal discharge. This is due to the cervix becoming inflamed.
• Pain or burning on urination
• Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods. In particular, bleeding after sex.
• Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen (pelvic area), especially during sex.

Symptoms in Men
• Pain or burning on urination
• Slight discharge from the penis
• Pain or discomfort at the tip of the penis.

How Can the Doctor Be Certain I Have Chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be confirmed by a swab taken from the cervix (neck of the womb) in women and from the urethra in men and sent to the laboratory for testing. Alternatively, you may be asked to provide a urine sample. In patients who have had anal or oral sex, a rectal or throat swab is also taken. However, treatment may be started before testing in cases of strong clinical suspicion. Also, other STIs may be tested for as well.

Can it Be Treated?
Chlamydia is easily treated with a simple course of antibiotics, and the earlier the condition is detected, the easier it is to treat. Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. Persons whose sexual partners have not been appropriately treated are at high risk for re-infection therefore contact tracing is usually done and all sexual consorts are treated. Having multiple chlamydial infections increases a woman’s risk of serious reproductive health complications, including PID and ectopic pregnancy. Women and men with chlamydia should be re-tested about three months after treatment of an initial infection.

Treatment Pitfalls
• Not completing the dose
• Unprotected intercourse during treatment
• Unprotected intercourse with untreated partner
• Drug interactions (tell your doctor about other meds you might be taking).

Preventing Chlamydia
Barrier contraception (the most common of which is the latex male condom) and regular testing are the focal points in prevention.
‘Embarrassment’ (with regards to testing) is right up there with ignorance as one of the biggest causes of the spread of STIs. These days with discrete home test kits for most STIs, many have run out of excuses not to take their sexual health seriously.

In a Nutshell
If you are having unprotected sex, you are at risk! The one person you can vouch for is yourself. So, be it within the confines of a loving monogamous relationship, or not, you must get tested.
Chlamydia is unarguably the greatest threat to human fertility. Many people carry on the infection from previous relationships several years before, so a positive chlamydia test doesn’t mean anyone’s cheating, the bug might have been hanging in there for a while. It is easily treatable with a simple course of antibiotics. So, have a nice chat with your partner, and go get tested today (brave it, chest the yawa).

Did You Know?
Chlamydia can infect babies born to infected mothers causing a nasty discharge of pus from their eyes about a week after birth, which if untreated can go on to become pneumonia. The bacterium also causes trachoma, a common cause of blindness.

________________________________________________________________________________________
Annette Bazuaye is a Medical practitioner, writer, researcher and UN Millenium Development Ambassador. She holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Benin, and a Master of Science in Global Health from the University of Oxford. She is committed to preventive medicine, health literacy and community development. 

Dr Annette Bazuaye is a Medical practitioner, writer, researcher and UN Millenium development ambassador. She holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Benin, and a Master of Science in Global health from the University of Oxford. She is committed to preventive medicine, health literacy and community development. Her version of utopia is a world with no sick people, no traffic, world peace, pink clouds, and everyday is spa day.

17 Comments

  1. eniola

    May 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

    THANKS!

  2. ms lala

    May 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

    people please get tested …and save yourselves…and say no to oral sex to barely known men…its the aristo babes am feeling for sef

  3. nkyy

    May 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Thank you so much. I am going to get tested ASAP.y

  4. happy

    May 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

    i will be 24 in june and i am still a virgin. it means i will not be at risk until i am disvirgned by my husband after our wedding

    • zizi

      May 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      Men have Chlamydia too and you can get it from your “husband” who may not have symptoms. All you can do is hope that you marry a careful man.

    • Anonymous

      May 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      my friend stop forming virgin and go and get tested

  5. ALEXIA

    May 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

    God bless u for this

  6. MARK

    May 7, 2013 at 11:50 am

    We never thought something like this could be posted. Thanks alot for the idea.

  7. ay

    May 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Great article! Pls can someone answer this for me, I did a swab and urine analysis 2weeks ago, if i there was chlamydia or any other infection, won’t it show in the result?

    • impervious

      May 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      Just ask your doctor if it was tested for… if it was then, yes it would show up! Good luck!

    • Anonymous

      May 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      ask your doctor if it was tested or go specifically and say u want to test for chlamydia

  8. bebe

    May 7, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Thnx

  9. DocDeola

    May 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you so much for this well written and succinct write up and demystifying the aura of taboo around such topics in our culture or any other for that matter. There should be more testing where youths and couples congregate including religious centers such as churches. In a way it’s a moral obligation.

  10. divea

    May 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    very informative…thanks

  11. uwadia solomon

    May 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Nice piece of information Dr Annette. Keep up the good work

  12. sandra

    May 14, 2013 at 5:09 am

    i thought HPV was the most common but i guess it doesnt matter cos chlamydia is also really common too

  13. Aireese

    October 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Even virgins get PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease) on rare occassions which is usually transmitted by sex. So getting yourself tested occasionally won’t hurt.

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