When Ruby, 18, went in for her yearly exam at the Scarborough Sexual Health Clinic she didn’t expect to be called back so soon.
“They didn’t leave any details in their message,” she said. “They just asked me to come down again.”
The results of Ruby’s pap smear revealed she had Chlamydia. According to Toronto Health, Chlamydia is the number one reported sexually transmitted disease in Toronto. Eighty per cent of women and 50 per cent of men who are infected are unaware that they have it.
“I couldn’t believe what the nurse told me,” Ruby said. “I didn’t notice or feel anything different. My partner had no idea either.”
To make people like Ruby aware of the fast spreading infection, Toronto Health launched the Check Up on Chlamydia Campaign. Last year there were over 6,000 reported cases in Toronto. The campaign will focus on increasing awareness of the infection and also encourages physicians to test their patients for Chlamydia on a regular basis.
Numbers higher among women
“Women between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest rate of infection,” said Dr. Rita Shahin, Associate Medical Officer of Health with Toronto Public Health.
“Chlamydia is easy to test for; doctors or nurses may do a cervical swab on a female or swab a male’s urethra. They may also do a urine test as well.”
Shahin says the reasons for the increase in Chlamydia cases include having multiple sexual partners, no condom use during sexual intercourse and better testing methods.
“People who are sexually active should go in for their yearly test, but if you suspect something or if you’ve had more than one partner it’s always a good idea to visit your doctor or your clinic early,” she said.
Chlamydia today could mean problems tomorrow
Chlamydia is caused by the chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. It can be spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also spread to the eyes by the hands or by direct contact with infected fluids.
Most individuals infected with Chlamydia have no symptoms but some include: a burning feeling when you urinate, bleeding during sexual intercourse and pain after or during sexual intercourse. Women may also notice increased vaginal discharge and irritation. Men may notice discharge and itching around their urethra.
If left untreated, women who have Chlamydia may develop pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is a serious infection that affects the lining of the uterus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. Untreated Chlamydia may also lead to miscarriages. Infected men face the possibility of becoming sterile and may develop epididymitis, swelling and pain in the testicles.
Antibiotic pills like Amoxicillin and Doxycycline are used to treat Chlamydia. All of the infected person’s partners within the last 90 days should also be tested.
“The best way to protect yourself against Chlamydia is to use protection, especially if you have multiple partners,” Shahin said. “One infected person who doesn’t know they have it may possibly help spread the disease to many others.”