Saturday 24 February 2018

Sexual health: Don't risk your chance of children

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Ireland is among the European countries where the reported incidence of an infection, which can leave women and men infertile, is on the increase.

There were nearly 344,000 notified cases of chlamydia reported across Europe in 2009, the European Centre for Disease Control has revealed.

But 75pc of women and 50pc of men with it have no symptoms, so unless they are tested and treated it may, unknown to them, risk their chances of having children.

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Ireland and confirmed cases increased 13-fold here between 1997 and 2008.

In 2008 there were 6,290 cases reported here and nearly seven in 10 were in women and men in their twenties.

Researchers at the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the disease watchdog, tracked the numbers of people treated in hospital for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can be caused by chlamydia, during those years.

They also looked at ectopic pregnancy rates where the baby develops outside the womb and cannot survive.

In addition they checked cases where a woman's fallopian tubes are damaged causing infertility.

They found that the numbers treated for pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and tubal infertility all rose during the period from 1997 and 2008.

Although no link was made between the rise in chlamydia and these conditions, which can have different causes, the findings emphasised the need for more monitoring of chlamydia.

Separately, researchers from the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the west and the Royal College of Surgeons distributed test kits to 1,249 students in Galway University.

Of the 538 kits returned they found that 3.9pc tested positive for chlamydia. This amounted to five per cent of women and two per cent of men.

It can be detected by a simple urine test and the common treatment is a course of antibiotics. If these are taken as directed they are more than 95pc effective.

The European disease centre said that between 2006 and 2009 the overall rate increased by 42pc.

The increases included Ireland (20pc), Denmark (18pc), Iceland (23pc), Latvia (34pc) and the UK (89pc).

It pointed out that the overall rise in the past decade is due to a combination of factors. These include better diagnostic tests and detection, improved surveillance and the introduction of screening programmes in a number of countries.

There are currently no plans to set up a screening programme here.

The next priority is bowel cancer screening from January next year, which will absorb a lot of funds.

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