Not only can your health be seriously affected by a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but there are some that can go as far as putting your fertility at risk. According to the American Sexual Health Association, 15% of infertile women have an STD to blame. In these cases, infertility is caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, resulting in tubal damage in the reproductive organs. Both males and females are susceptible to damages such as these.
The most common bacterial STDs to have this effect are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Many people are unaware that they are infected with these diseases because they often don’t involve any symptoms. As a result, they go untreated and can have damaging effects.
If you are sexually active, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea annually. Even if you have worn protection most of the time, it can never hurt to be sure.
The Effect Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Have on the Body
For women, these diseases can inflame the cervix and cause cervicitis. They can also inflame the urethra, causing urethritis. As stated above, most people normally do not see any symptoms. Yet, the urethra sometimes will drain liquid from the bladder and there will be an abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal spotting, and possibly a burning sensation while urinating. “Left untreated, 10-15% of chlamydia infections will cause an upper genital tract infection in the uterus or the fallopian tubes.”
This kind of infection is referred to as pelvic inflammatory disease, a condition that can cause a lot of discomfort and permanent damage of the fallopian tubes and uterus resulting in infertility. The fallopian tubes must be intact in order for an egg to be able to be fertilized and travel to the uterus. If the damage is extensive enough, scarring will stop the egg and sperm from connecting and fertilization cannot take place.
For men, gonorrhea and chlamydia can also result in urethritis. Symptoms in men are rare as well, but if they do occur, they include: dysuria, pain/redness around the penis opening, and discharge. Failure to receive treatment can result in epididymitis, an infection in the upper genital tract causing the inflammation of the epididymis. The epididymis is where a male’s sperm is able to mature. Untreated, epididymitis can damage the sperm’s health and result in infertility.
Testing and Treatment
In order to test for Chlamydia, your doctor may check your cervical or penile discharge or urine by means of a variety of different methods. The cure rate for chlamydia is 95% when treated. Women who are unaware of the existence of an infection, however, may experience more complications if the disease has advanced into pelvic inflammatory disease. When one is diagnosed, standard treatment is an oral antibiotic.
The infection usually clears up in about a week or so. It is recommended that your partner is also treated, just in case. With pelvic inflammatory disease, a longer course of antibiotics may be necessary and more extreme cases may require surgery.
A urine test or a swab of the affected area (throat, urethra, or rectum) will detect the existence of gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is also treated with antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the antibiotic be given as an injection “due to emerging strains of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae.”
Wait at least 7 days after receiving treatment before having any sexual contact. If symptoms do not go away after treatment, this may because another gonorrhea infection has occurred or the treatment failed.
What to Keep In Mind
If you are going to engage in sexual intercourse, it is recommended that both people are tested for STDs before doing so. Do not hesitate to make an appointment with your family doctor or general practitioner. In more severe cases, your doctor may refer you to a specialist.
If you are concerned that you may have an STD, make a list of any symptoms you have experienced, medications you are currently taking, and any questions that you have for your doctor. This will help you to make the most of your time with them and ensure you are getting all of the proper medical care that you require.