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Chlamydia and gonorrhea

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Do you think that only other people get sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Think again! Anyone who engages in risky sexual behaviour can contract such a disease. Learn about safe practices to have a healthy and fulfilling sex life!

La chlamydia et la gonorrhée

You’ve recently met a new love and everything is going swimmingly. Then comes your first sexual intercourse together and you realize that you don’t have a condom in hand. You tell yourself, “A single unprotected sexual intercourse isn’t such big a deal. Nothing will happen to me!” But sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a very real threat to your health, even in a case like this.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can affect different parts of the body, such as the genitals, rectum, throat, or eyes. Chlamydia is transmitted during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse with an infected person. Chlamydia is widespread in the world. In Canada, the majority of people infected with it are aged between 15 and 24 and this disease affects twice as many women as men.

In women, chlamydia can cause the following symptoms:

  • burning sensation during urination;
  • abnormal vaginal discharges;
  • bleeding between periods, during or after sexual intercourse;
  • increase in pain during intercourse or periods;
  • lower abdominal or back pain.

In men, we observe the following symptoms:

  • itching on the penis;
  • burning sensation or pain during urination;
  • discharge from the penis;
  • pain or swelling of the testicles.

However, nearly half of the men affected do not experience any symptoms. In the case of a rectal infection, there could be discharges, redness, painful stools, and anal itching.

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea, commonly known as the “clap,” is a bacterial infection transmitted during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse with an infected person. An infected mother can also pass it on to her child at the time of birth.

Some people are a higher risk of contracting this disease:

  • sexually active youths under 25;
  • men having sexual relations with other men;
  • sex workers and their partners;
  • street children;
  • people who have had sexual contact with a carrier of the bacteria;
  • people with a history of gonorrhea or other STIs;
  • men or women having unprotected sex.

In women, gonorrhea can cause the following symptoms:

  • burning sensation during urination;
  • pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding;
  • yellowish vaginal discharges.

In men, the following symptoms are possible:

  • discharges from the penis;
  • burning sensation during urination;
  • pain or swelling of the testicles.

The symptoms of rectal infection are discharges, anal bleeding or itching, and pain during defecation. A good number of men and women are asymptomatic.

The treatment

The treatment of these two infections is relatively simple and done through a course of antibiotics that your doctor will prescribe. It is also very important to treat your sexual partner(s) because these two infections can have serious consequences on their health.

In fact, untreated chlamydia is an important cause of the loss of vision as well as the leading cause of infertility in women. In men, it can cause a swelling of the prostate gland, an inflammation of the epididymis (small organ situated on the testicles), and sometimes infertility. As for gonorrhea, in women, an untreated infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause chronic pain, infertility, and an ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus). Untreated gonorrhea can also affect fertility in men. In both sexes, it can damage the functioning of certain organs permanently.

Responsible behaviours to adopt

For a few years now, the incidence of chlamydia and gonorrhea has been on the rise, so it is important to follow safe sex practices:

  • Take a STI screening test when you have a new partner and get treated when you are found to have an infection.
  • Tell your partner about any past or present infection.
  • Use a condom during sexual intercourse.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • In case of chlamydia or gonorrhea, wait for seven days after the end of treatment and the complete disappearance of symptoms (remission) before engaging in sexual relations.

In conclusion, it is possible and preferable to prevent these two infections. However, if you are infected, your healthcare professional can guide you through the steps of screening and treatment, in addition to answering your questions.

It is said that love is blind, but this is not a reason to turn a blind eye to the risks involved in unsafe sex. To enjoy a better sex life, discuss STI prevention with your partner. In this way, you will be able to appreciate your new relationship while keeping your health!

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