Monday, September 23

Chlamydia: a painfully common STD


You see him standing there. “He’s sooo cute.”
You notice his white baseball cap is tilted to the side.
“He’s so independent.” A few stiff drinks later,
you and your new friend are roaring down the freeway headed to big
man’s apartment for a night of rock and roll.

He throws on the Barry White, and in your haste you ignore the
scattered old pizza boxes and the bed sheets that look like they
haven’t been washed since last year.

Fast forward a few weeks, and you discover you have pains in
your lower abdomen and want to pee really badly but nothing comes
out except an odd mustard-colored discharge.

Then, you remember your friend from the other night.

Besides having washboard abs and a Chinese tattoo, he also had
chlamydia, a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. He forgot to
mention it.

He also forgot to wear a condom, but that didn’t seem all
that important at the time. He probably also had some pain in his
groin or scrotum and possibly even secreted the same yellow
discharge from his penis.

I’m not going to terrify you with the HIV boogeyman.
I’m also not going to spend time on cervical cancer-causing
warts. The girl in our story didn’t get these diseases. She
got chlamydia ““ the most common sexually transmitted disease
in the nation.

Oddly enough, she was lucky because the chlamydia gave her
considerable pain in her pelvis (pelvic inflammatory disease) and
visible discharge. These are helpful because they make you panic,
go to your doctor, get tested for everything short of a peanut
allergy, take a fistful of antibiotics and stop dating certain
guys.

However, many women never show any symptoms of chlamydial
infection. In a number of women, the “silent” infection
makes its way to the fallopian tubes, which are needed to move the
fertilized egg to the uterus so the fetus can develop.

This silent infection can destroy the delicate fallopian tubes,
leading to sterility or even a dangerous condition known as ectopic
pregnancy where the fetus implants in the tiny tubes instead of the
uterus. This can lead to rupture of the tube walls causing massive
bleeding and even death.

Maybe you’re out there saying, “Well, she was
irresponsible. She had it coming.” Up to 25 percent of
pregnant women have chlamydia. That certainly is a lot of women to
simply pass off as “irresponsible.”

Chlamydia may also be transferred to the newborn, leading to
inflammation of the eyes and even pneumonia. Chlamydia is one of
the leading causes of sterility in the United States.

It is estimated that one in 20 of college women are infected.
Many women don’t know they have chlamydia, and it can
silently rob them of their ability to have children in the
future.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics can prevent damage and
eventual sterility from occurring. Chlamydia is transmitted by
unprotected sex. Abstinence and condoms are very effective at
preventing chlamydia and a whole slew of other STDs.

If you’re sexually active and may not have a sparkling
record regarding condom use, you are at risk for infection with any
STD. Go to your doctor and get tested for chlamydia and other STDs.
It may be scary, but knowing you’re infected can get you
treatment that can save your life.

Anand is a second-year medical student at the UCLA David
Geffen School of Medicine. “Your Health” is a weekly
column written by a rotating group of UCLA medical students. E-mail
questions and column topics to [email protected]

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