You might think that if you had a sexually transmitted infection you would know, but the fact is that some STIs are usually asymptomatic in women. Two of these silent STIs are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Depending on your age and risk factors, your gynecologist may screen you for both of these STIs at your annual checkup. That's because if you do have one of these infections and it's left untreated, it can cause infertility later on.
Read on to learn more about why you should take chlamydia and gonorrhea screening seriously.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both sexually transmitted infections that are caused by bacteria. They are spread through sex with an infected person, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. A man can spread chlamydia or gonorrhea to his sex partner even if he doesn't ejaculate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 2.86 million cases of chlamydia in the US each year, and over half a million cases of gonorrhea. Both of these STIs are most common in women between the ages of 15 and 25. You are more at risk for these STIs if:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that most women who have chlamydia or gonorrhea will have no signs. Those women who do have signs may mistake them for a UTI or vaginal infection because they are so mild. These signs might include one or more of the following:
Again, most women will have no symptoms, but if symptoms do occur, they will appear two to three weeks after the time of infection.
The bacteria of chlamydia or gonorrhea move upward through a woman's reproductive tract, first infecting the cervix before potentially moving on to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. These bacteria can also infect the urethra and rectum. If either of these STIs moves past the cervix into the reproductive system, it can cause several complications, including:
In addition to these complications, expectant mothers who have gonorrhea or chlamydia can also spread the STI to their baby during the birth process, which can lead to complications in the newborn. For chlamydia these complications can include:
Because of the frequency of these STIs and their serious potential complications, both the CDC and the ACOG recommend that all women under the age of 25 be screened at their annual gynecological checkup for both chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Women over the age of 25 who have a new sex partner or who have more than one sex partner should also be screened annually.
Your gynecologist can diagnose chlamydia either through a urine test or through a sample collected by swabbing the cervix, urethra, or rectum.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are treated fairly easily through the use of antibiotics. Damage that might already be done by the disease, however, is not reversible. Your gynecologist will encourage you to take the following steps to prevent another case of gonorrhea or chlamydia:
While both chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause some serious complications, their treatment is surprisingly easy and effective. Preventive screening at your annual gynecological or well woman checkup can ensure that any infection you may or may not know about is caught and treated quickly in order to preserve your long-term health.
Finding out you have a sexually transmitted infection can be upsetting and embarrassing.
The gynecologists at Gainesville and Lake City's All About Women are available for compassionate care through every stage of a woman's life, including helping you through an STI. If you need to schedule your annual gynecological checkup, are concerned that you may have a STI, or have questions about your sexual health, don't hesitate to make an appointment today.