Dr Howard Lee looks at a genital infection that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility
Genital chlamydia is the most common, curable, bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK but, if left untreated, it can cause serious complications. Chlamydia is certainly on the increase - 1 in 12 women between the ages of 16 and 24 are affected and the NHS spends millions of pounds each year treating complications that arise from the disease. But the real tragedy is that many more women go undiagnosed, unaware that chlamydia can be treated simply and effectively.
Chlamydia is known as an 'ascending' condition as it first affects the cervix and womb, before travelling up further to infect the fallopian tubes, the ovaries and eventually the inner lining of the abdominal cavity.
Who gets chlamydia, and how is it passed on?
Anyone who has unprotected sex with a number of partners can get genital chlamydia infection. It's most common in women 16-19 years of age.
Pregnant women can pass the infection on to their babies during birth
Those infected can pass the disease on to other partners even if they don't have any symptoms.
Symptoms and signs of Chlamydia
Bleeding following sexual intercourse
Mid-cycle or irregular menstrual bleeding
Inflammation of the cervix, which bleeds on contact
Urethritis (inflammation of the tube which conducts urine from the bladder to the exterior)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Lower abdominal pain in those who are sexually active
The problem is that up to 70% of women with an infection won't notice any symptoms in the early stages but they can still pass the disease on to a partner. The incubation period (the interval between the exposure to the infection until the appearance of the first symptoms) for men is between one and three weeks but up to 50% of them won't notice any symptoms either. Once symptoms appear, they usually persist, but in some cases, they may only last a few days and then disappear again. This doesn't mean that the disease has gone away.