Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: The Silent Diseases

(Vancouver Breakfast, June 27, 2000)

In my work educating both teens and adults about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), it seems that people are so panicked at the threat of AIDS that they overlook the need to protect themselves from and treat more common, potentially very damaging diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. If these STDs are left untreated they can lead to infertility or in rare cases may be fatal. Incidence is highest among teens, and chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the world. The incidence of both gonorrhea and chlamydia in BC is alarming, as is the increase in cases in recent years (as reported by the Centre for Disease Control):

Reported Cases of Chlamydia (Males and Females)

1996: 488
1997: 458

1998: 541
1999: 878

Reported Cases of Gonorrhea (Males and Females)

1996: 4116

1998: 4769
1999: 5355

1. What are they?

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are bacterial infections that flourish in warm areas of the body such as the vagina and the penis. They are transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids during sexual contact.

2. What are the symptoms?

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are known as “The Silent Diseases” because they are usually asymptomatic (there are no noticeable signs, especially in women). This is why they are so scary! For men, noticeable symptoms may include abnormal fluid from the penis, pain during urination or an itching feeling inside the penis. For women, a burning feeling when urinating, pain duiring sex and abdominal pain may be warning signs.

3. How are Chlamydia and Gonorrhea treated?

The good news is that both of these diseases can be treated with antibiotics, which is probably why people seem to be less concerned about them. HOWEVER, if they are left untreated even for a couple of months, they can spread to reproductive and vital organs of the body and be very damaging, even fatal. For example, gonorrhea can infect the uterus and fallopian tubes, and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or an ectopic pregnancy. Men can develop an infection in the testicles that affects sperm production.

4. How can I protect myself from Chlamydia and Gonorrhea?

ß Of course, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use a condom, and use it correctly.
ß Know your partner’s sexual history.

ß Get an STD test whenever you change sexual partners and when you have a pap test.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to your family doctor for this, go to the STD Clinic at Vancouver Hospital (660-6161) or Planned Parenthood (731-4252), where you can receive free, confidential information and care.