Can you name the most common cause of testicular inflammation and epididymitis (swelling of the sperm conducting tube) in men under the age of 35? Hint: its in the title of the article. Chlamydia, the single most common treatable STD is also the most common cause of inflammation of the urogenital tract in men.
While much of the literature about Chlamydia is aimed at women, the insidious bacterial infection is also one of the leading causes of male infertility and problems of the urinary and reproductive system in young men. The Chlamydia bacteria can also make its home in the rectum and anal tract, and infect the mouth and throat if a man has oral or anal contact with an infected partner.
Symptoms of Chlamydia in a Man
One of the things that makes Chlamydia so insidious is the fact that it often has no symptoms at all. The CDC estimates that approximately 50% of men infected with Chlamydia are asymptomatic. Because there are no symptoms, they dont seek treatment until the bacteria has had a chance to cause irreversible damage. It also means that they are more likely to have unprotected sex and pass it along to other partners.
Prevalence of Chlamydia
Chlamydia is even more common than was once believed. In a recent UK study, doctors screened army recruits for Chlamydia. Fully 10% of those tested were positive for Chlamydia. Of them, over 80% reported no symptoms at all.
Between the lack of symptoms and the discomfort that many doctors feel in bringing up sexually transmitted diseases, those statistics suggest that young men should be proactive about their own health care. Health officials suggest that young men who are sexually active, particularly if they have had more than two partners in the past year, request a screening for Chlamydia from their doctors.
Symptoms of Chlamydia
Doctors also suggest that if you have any of the symptoms of Chlamydia, you should request a screening test. Many doctors are unaware of the prevalence of the condition, particularly in young men. The most common symptoms of Chlamydia in men include:
– White, cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
– Painful or burning urination
– Burning or itching in the genital area
– Irritation at the tip of the penis
– Inflammation of the testicles
– Inflammation of the epididymus (the tube that carries sperm from the testicles)
– Inflammation and scarring of the urethra
– Painful urination
– Anal discharge (if Chlamydia is present in the rectum)
While the long-term results of untreated Chlamydia for women have been widely publicized, theres not as much said about the results of an untreated Chlamydia infection in men. Chlamydia can result in scarring of the urethra, and can affect sperm motility and function. Recent studies in Sweden suggest that Chlamydia affects the sperm themselves, and that Chlamydia in the male may reduce the chances of pregnancy in a couple by up to 30%.
There are two types of diagnostic tests for Chlamydia. The first, which is older, more accurate and more readily available, involves inserting a small cotton swab into the urethra to collect a sample. In the past five years, a urine test for Chlamydia has been developed. While it is easier (and less uncomfortable), it is also less available and more expensive.
Treatment of Chlamydia
Chlamydia responds readily to antibiotic treatment, though it is not affected by penicillin. Doxocycline and azithromycin are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics.
The easiest and most effective way of preventing Chlamydia is to wear a condom when having sex. Health officials suggest always using a condom with a new partner until you both have had tests for sexually transmitted diseases.