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The Dangers of the 2 Most Common STDs

Topic: Sexual Health

Group of young adult friends

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are the most commonly reported STDs in the United States. Alabama is ranked #15 in the U.S. for Chlamydia and #8 for gonorrhea (source).  Statistics show that 1 in 2 sexually active persons will contract an STD by the age of 25.  Are you one of them?  You may be and not even know it.  If you have had sex or are sexually active, then you are at risk.  It’s important to keep a check on your sexual health.  Schedule your STD testing appointment today.

Chlamydia vs. Gonorrhea: What the Difference?

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria. They infect both men and women and they can be contracted through oral, genital or anal sex.  Many people never develop symptoms, but for those who do, the symptoms are very similar, so it’s difficult to know what and if you have one of these STDs without having an STD test.  Chlamydia is especially dangerous for women because when left untreated, it can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system.  Gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat.

Symptoms of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Symptoms may appear a few weeks after you’ve been infected, or not at all.  For those who have developed symptoms, these are the most common:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal or penal discharge
  • Abnormal discharge from the rectum
  • Pain or bleeding from the rectum
  • Pain or swelling in testicles
  • Mouth and throat symptoms, such as sore throat and a cough

Whether you are experiencing one of these symptoms or not, it’s important to check your sexual health status. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are both treatable STDs.  But when left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause irreparable damage to your health.

The Dangers of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

If chlamydia and gonorrhea are easily treated, then what’s the danger?  Good question!  The problem comes in when no symptoms are present and either disease goes left untreated.

Chlamydia:

According to the CDC:

If you are a woman, untreated chlamydia can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID often has no symptoms, however some women may have abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if it doesn’t cause symptoms initially, PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).

CDC – source

Although men rarely have serious health problems linked to chlamydia, some serious infections can occur.  For both men and women, untreated chlamydia can increase your chances of getting or giving HIV.

Gonorrhea:

Gonorrhea has more severe possible complications and is more likely to cause infertility.  Like chlamydia, untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  Remember, PID can lead to:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Infertility (inability to get pregnant)
  • Long-time pelvic/abdominal pain

In men, gonorrhea can cause testicular infection, which causes the tubes attached to the testicles to become infected and inflamed.  In rare cases, this may cause a man to be sterile, preventing him from ever being able to father a child.  

Although rare, untreated gonorrhea can spread to your blood or joints, a condition that is life-threatening.  As with chlamydia, untreated gonorrhea may increase your chances of contracting other STDs, such as HIV.

What if I’m Pregnant?

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be passed to your baby during delivery.  These infections can cause serious health problems for your baby.  If you are pregnant, it’s even more important to get tested.

Treatment for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Fortunately, treatment for both chlamydia and gonorrhea are easy.  Both are cured with the right medication. However, medication will not reverse any permanent damage caused by the disease, nor will taking medication prevent you from contracting chlamydia or gonorrhea again.  According to the CDC, gonorrhea is becoming harder to treat as drug-resistant strains are increasing.  

Anyone who is sexually active (or has been sexually active) is at risk for chlamydia or gonorrhea.  Be responsible for your sexual health and check your status. (link to Am I Sexually Healthy)  The CDC recommends getting tested annually.  If you are experiencing symptoms, you should be tested immediately.  WCMC provides free STD testing in a comfortable, confidential environment.  Your sexual health is important to us.  Schedule an appointment today and talk to one of our medical professionals about your sexual status. 

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention and American Sexual Health Association