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Sexclamation - A First Post!

The other important factor is my day job. I am a sexual health doctor. I work in the clinics and do these tests day in and day out, for my patients. It should be water off a duck's back? In fact, it's all very well to give advice to other people, but when it happens to YOU, it suddenly feels very different.

Sexclamation - A First Post!

Welcome readers to Sexclamation! - my new blog - all about sexual health!

I was so excited to get the news that The HuffPost has signed me up as a new blogger, I've decided to celebrate! - I'm going to have my own chlamydia test!

So - some of you may think this is not big news. Isn't that what we should all be doing anyway? But wait until I tell you that I'm 55, and that to date, I've never had one!

Here's the thing - how hypocritical can anyone be? I need to practice what I preach. For you, the blog readers, I am going to put myself through the toe-curlingly embarrassing process.

The other important factor is my day job. I am a sexual health doctor. I work in the clinics and do these tests day in and day out, for my patients. It should be water off a duck's back? In fact, it's all very well to give advice to other people, but when it happens to YOU, it suddenly feels very different.

So why should I do this - apart from embarrassing myself for millions of HuffPost readers? After all I haven't got any symptoms. But I know that 70% of people who have chlamydia infections are asymptomatic. So that's immaterial. (To be a successful STI, you don't want to cause any symptoms because you don't want anyone to know you are there!)

So how do you know who needs testing? The clue about this comes from the sexual history. The sexual history, is the bit where you have to answer all those humiliating questions when you sit in that clinic chair. Key risk factors include: a new sexual partner (in the past 3 months), frequent change of sexual partner, overlapping partners and high risk sex . If present, these lend themselves to an increased chance of infection.

In truth, that isn't really me - sorry to disappoint - but - I have had more than one partner in my lifetime. Plus my marriage dissolved about 5 years ago, same old story, my husband was having an affair. What exactly he had been up to and for how long I'll never know, but perhaps he left me with more than a large divorce bill! Plus, I have been - yes it's true - internet dating.

Now just remember, there is a difference between internet dating, and internet mating! And I am not fodder for a notch bed post gatherer! - BUT - I haven't taken a vow of chastity either. So ... yes, there is a risk in my sexual history. Be honest if you are reading this - Is there a risk in yours?

The other fact is my age. In an audit I did in our clinic in the UK, when people attended asking for STI testing aged over 50, they were 40% more likely to have an infection than those attending in the younger age groups. Yes, young people are particularly at risk of STI's and need regular screening, but proportionately, we screen a lot of young people and they test negative. If an older person attends because they perceive for some reason they need a test, they are more likely to test positive for something.

And who out there truly always uses a condom? And always uses it 100% correctly? Guilty here as charged! How about you? And it may interest you to know that condoms are better at preventing the spread of infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but they are not so good at preventing the spreads of viral infections like HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) and herpes. Now - I really want to encourage anyone reading this to always use condoms carefully until they know they are in a monogamous relationship and have been tested - BUT, even if you have always used condoms, the point of writing all this, is that it is still most definitely worth being tested. (I can write a whole blog page about why should be, and give a fuller explanation, on a future post.)

So - I seem not just to be talking chlamydia now. Yes, if you've been at risk of one infection, you are definitely at risk of having others. The fact of the matter is that STIs travel in twos and threes. It's thought that some STIs use sperm as a means of transport, and literally climb aboard for an intergalactic trip up into the pelvic cavity.

If you test positive to one infection, you are strongly recommended to be fully screened across the board, and yes that includes blood tests for HIV and syphilis.

Let's also remember prevention is better than cure.

But if it's too late for prevention, then early detection is better than late detection or no detection.

The natural history of chlamydia is not well understood, and why some people have florid symptoms and others do not, remains a mystery. However in women, if left untreated, chlamydia can cause an unpleasant condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. This means, in simple terms, that the chlamydial infection has caused inflammation - redness and swelling - in the fallopian tubes, the uterus and other pelvic tissues. This may cause chronic lower abdominal and/or pelvic pain, painful sex, abnormal function in the fallopian tubes, tubal blockage and and/or ectopic pregnancy. In addition chlamydia can cause conjunctivitis and is frequently diagnosed in the ophthalmology clinics. It can also cause pneumonia in newborn babies. Chlamydia can also cause SARA, Sexually Acquired Reactive Arthritis, which can present as severe joint pain, and be difficult to treat.

In men, chlamydia causes a condition known as urethritis, which is associated with pain passing urine, and sometimes penile discharge, but if untreated it may spread to cause testicular pain, pain on and after ejaculation, and/or prostatic symptoms. All of this may be associated with negative effects on the sperm count, like poor sperm motility. For all these reasons, untreated chlamydial infections may result in the emotional, physical and psychological trauma of female and male infertility.

So - OK, I'm not having any more children aged 55, that's a fact! But those other symptoms are pretty unpleasant. Painful sex, or in medical terms, dyspareunia is all too common in sexual health clinics, and causes untold misery for millions of couples across the globe. This is something I would not relish at any age. Plus, how would I feel if I inadvertently passed an infection to any new partner? It doesn't bear thinking about.

So, it's official. I've made an appointment. It's not where I work, for obvious reasons. In fact I'm travelling 50 miles for anonymity. And I'll need to go through the whole clinic process, just for me. What will it feel like being a patient? What will I notice differently when I am usually on the other side of the fence?

The answer is, read on and you will see the account of Daisy's journey! I don't think I'll sleep tonight for worrying about this. But there we. I'm doing this because - well because I'm a responsible citizen, and I want to set a good example, and I want to live a long life! Plus HuffPost readers are coming with me!

So read on - and I'll give you my guide to the STI testing experience, in the 21st century!


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