According to a recent poll carried out by Durex, 47% of all adults worldwide have had sex with someone without checking on their partner’s sexual history – 48% of men and 45% of women. 65% of 45-55 year olds have had unprotected sex, compared to 33% of 16-20 year olds.
Clean and protected sex not only lessens risks of unwanted pregnancies, but also minimizes the odds of acquiring sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Circumcision, for one, has proven helpful to minimize HIV infection in men. The use of condoms prevent direct contact of the genitals, thereby eliminating contact with genital secretions which carry bacteria. Personal genital hygiene is also important as it lowers, if not prevent, the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI) from spreading. Something as simple as proper washing of the genitals before and after intercourse makes a big difference on the possibility of contracting STI.
Itchiness, soreness, and genital discharge can be signs of infection. However, it is quite normal and healthy for women of childbearing age to have vaginal discharge. The amount and color of this can change during menstruation, sexual excitement, and pregnancy. An abnormal discharge which is thick and white, green and foul-smelling, or blood stained suggests possible infection.
Among the many genital infections, chlamydia is the most commonly reported world wide. About four million reported cases of chlamydia infection occur in the United States each year. Chlamydia is caused by an intracellular parasite, Chlamydia trachomatis, and can affect both males and females. This disease is transmitted in body fluids and doesn’t survive outside the body, it can easily be acquired during vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact with an infected partner; or passed on from mother to child during birth. Chlamydia is a curable infection, however it can last for a long period of time if not treated. Diagnosis requires a sample of the patient’s body fluid either through the urine or by directly collecting sample from the penis or the uterus. Chlamydia can be easily remedied through antibiotics.
Most people suffering from chlamydia are not aware of their infections and do not seek testing. This is because almost 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men don’t manifest symptoms. The most common symptoms of chlamydia for women include abnormal vaginal discharge, irritation, unusual vaginal bleeding , deep pain during intercourse, and painful urination. For males, they usually experience frequent urination with a burning sensation, watery discharge from the penis, and a burning or itching sensation around the opening of the penis.
If left untreated, Chlamydia may develop complications for women’s sexual health and also that of men. In rare cases, the effects may even reach to fatality. Forty percent of untreated chlamydia cases in women lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). One out of 5 women that go on to develop PID will become infertile as a result. Chlamydia may also cause ectopic or tubal pregnancies. this proves most fatal of all complications as the fertilized ovum (egg cell) is implanted outside the uterus, most often in the Fallopian tubes. Other effects include premature birth, miscarriage, and chronic pain in the pelvic region.
Men aren’t safe from the complications of prolonged untreated Chlamydia. They may develop epididymitis (swelling of the testicles.) Epididymitis is the inflammation of the epididymis, the tube that carries sperm from the testicle. Though complications in men are rare, infection could cause pain, fever, and sterility.
Babies who are exposed to chlamydia in the birth canal during delivery may develop an eye infection or pneumonia. Symptoms of an eye infection, called conjunctivitis or “pink eye,” include discharge in the eye and swollen eyelids that usually develop within the first 10 days of life. Symptoms of pneumonia includes coughing that gets steadily worse and nasal congestion. It often develops within 3 to 6 weeks of birth.
Patients who have contracted chlamydia should have their sexual partners evaluated, tested, and treated. Persons with chlamydia should cease from engaging in sexual intercourse until they and their sex partners have finished treatment, otherwise re-infection is possible. Women whose partners have not been properly treated are at high risk for infection to recur. Multiple infections puts a woman’s sexual health at serious risk. Retesting should be considered for women, three to four months after treatment. This is especially true if a woman does not know if her sex partner received treatment.
Prevention is always better than cure. Engaging in unprotected or unhygienic sex practices puts one in a position where he is vulnerable to diseases and infections. Use protection if you have no idea about your partner’s sexual history. In that case, not only do you protect yourself from STDs, you also preserve your reproductive health.