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Chlamydia Conjunctivitis

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia Trachomatis. It is one of the most common STIs worldwide, and likewise here in Singapore. According to the latest statistics provided by the Department of STI Control (DSC) Clinic, there were officially 2,719 newly diagnosed cases of Chlamydia reported in 2018.

It is well known that Chlamydia affects the genito-urinary system, with the typical symptoms being painful urination, increased urinary frequency or urgency, penile or vaginal discharge, testicular pain or swelling in men, and painful sex or bleeding after sex in women. You may also be aware that Chlamydia can sometimes be completely asymptomatic. However, what most people may not know is that Chlamydia can affect other parts of the body as well, namely the eyes, rectum, throat and joints.

In this article, we will focus on Chlamydia eye infection, also known as Chlamydia Conjunctivitis. You can read more about Chlamydia as an overall topic in a previous article:


What is Chlamydia Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, a clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. The conjunctiva helps to lubricate the eye by producing mucus and tears, and prevents the entry of microbes into the eye. The various causes of conjunctivitis include viral or bacterial infections, allergies, chemical irritation and foreign objects. Therefore Chlamydia Conjunctivitis refers to conjunctivitis resulting from a Chlamydia infection.

How does Chlamydia Conjunctivitis occur?

Chlamydia Conjunctivitis is directly spread from the bacteria entering the eyes. This usually happens from touching or rubbing your eyes after touching your genitals (if you have Chlamydia) or those of an infected partner. It is also possible to get infected from sharing towels, eye makeup or cosmetics that contain the bacteria.

Signs and symptoms

Chlamydia Conjunctivitis can present acutely, but more commonly patients have mild symptoms for weeks to months. The majority of cases affect only one eye, and vision is usually unaffected.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Red, itchy, swollen or scratchy eyes
  • Mucous, sticky discharge
  • Tearing
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Crusting and sticking of eyelids
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Enlarged lymph nodes behind the ears

How to tell the difference between Chlamydia Conjunctivitis and other forms of conjunctivitis?

As Chlamydia Conjunctivitis presents very similarly to viral and other bacterial conjunctivitis, it is not possible to tell the difference based on eye signs and symptoms alone. For this reason, many patients may have been previously treated, or self-medicated, with various types of eye drops without symptomatic relief. A diagnosis of Chlamydia Conjunctivitis is usually suspected if close questioning reveals genito-urinary symptoms, or if the sexual partners of these patients have similar eye symptoms.

Who is at risk?

Chlamydia can affect anyone who is sexually active, both males and females alike, regardless of sexual preference or orientation. Young people may be at higher risk for various reasons, including practices like inconsistent condom usage.

Diagnosis

Chlamydia Conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed based on history and examination of the eye. If necessary, a swab test of the conjunctiva can be performed. Your doctor may advise you to test for other STIs as well.

STD Screening Singapore | Rapid STD Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea PCR

Treatment for Chlamydia Conjunctivitis

If left untreated, Chlamydia Conjunctivitis resolves spontaneously in 6 to 18 months, but most individuals would seek treatment due to the severity of the symptoms. Chlamydia Conjunctivitis is treated with topical antibiotics such as tetracycline, erythromycin and fluoroquinolones, but due to the high probability of concomitant genital tract infection, oral antibiotic therapy is recommended. Sexual partners of the patients should be contacted, evaluated and treated.

Prevention

  • Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching or rubbing your eyes unless your hands are clean
  • Do not share eye makeup or cosmetics with anyone
  • Refrain from sharing towels, washcloths, pillows, or sheets with anyone. If one of your eyes is affected but not the other, use a separate towel for each eye
  • Observe safe sexual practices including consistent and correct usage of condoms, reducing your number of partners or being in a mutually monogamous relationship where you are aware of your partner’s sexual health status
  • Regular STI screening helps you remain aware of your own sexual health status

Neonatal Chlamydia Conjunctivitis

Although relatively harmless in adults, Chlamydia Conjunctivitis can have severe health consequences in children. Infection is acquired from an infected mother during vaginal delivery, from exposure to the bacteria in the birth canal. Chlamydia Trachomatis is responsible for up to 40% of conjunctivitis in neonates. If left untreated, neonatal conjunctivitis can cause blindness.

The symptoms usually develop within 1 day to 2 weeks after birth and typically include redness of the conjunctiva, eyelid swelling, and mucous discharge. At least half of neonates with Chlamydia Conjunctivitis also have the bacteria present in the nasopharynx, and some go on to develop Chlamydia pneumonia. Therefore, oral antibiotic therapy is the treatment of choice in neonatal Chlamydia Conjunctivitis as it can also target concomitant nasopharyngeal infection.

The condition can be prevented by undergoing prompt screening and treatment if a genital infection is suspected during pregnancy. Deliveries should be conducted under hygienic conditions taking all aseptic measures. The newborn baby’s closed lids should be thoroughly cleansed and dried.

Next Read: Common STD Incubation Periods

Genital Blisters, Genital Warts and Genital Ulcers – Causes & Treatments

Genital blisters, genital warts, genital ulcers – more common than you think but invariably exceedingly distressing for the person suffering from them. Today we talk a little about the various causes for the above genital skin conditions.
Genital lumps, bumps and sores can be an alarming phenomenon for anyone. One day you notice a tiny little bump, or perhaps several bumps.
Now you’re not sure when they appeared – was your skin normal last week, or did you just never notice the bumps for a good duration? Or perhaps you notice what you thought was a little pimple or an ingrown hair follicle which happens from time to time because you shave. But now it’s burst, leaving a painful raw ulcer.

What are the Causes of Genital Blisters, Genital Warts and Genital Ulcers?

1) What are the Causes of Genital Blisters?

Genital blisters are small, fluid-filled bumps and can occur anywhere over the genital region.

a) Genital Herpes

One of the classic causes of genital blisters is genital Herpes, caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus.
Here’s a video about Herpes

Genital herpes has Several Stages:
Stage 1: Prodrome – the skin appears normal but you may feel an unusual sensation like a tingling or itching. This indicates that the virus is active and heralds an impending outbreak
Stage 2: Redness – you may notice some nonspecific red spots which may be uncomfortable or slightly painful.
Stage 3: Blisters – this is usually when people realise something is not right, Initially, these may resemble tiny pimples. They then grow in size and become fluid-filled and painful.
Stage 4: Ulcers – the blisters burst, leaving shallow, painful ulcers
Stage 5: Scabbing or crusting – a scab or crust forms over the ulcer, which eventually heals
Also, check out What is Oral Herpes & Cold Sore

b) Balanitis

In males, balanitis may sometimes present with tiny blisters. The term “balanitis” is a descriptive term which means inflammation of the head of the penis and foreskin. This usually manifests as skin redness, with some tiny blisters or whitish bumps, as well as possible itching/pain or discomfort.
There can be multiple causes of balanitis. The skin on the penis is no different from skin elsewhere on your body and redness, discomfort and irritation can be caused by many factors:

  • Infections such as fungal skin infections
  • Skin irritation caused by external factors like soaps (irritant or contact dermatitis)
  • Mechanical trauma in the form of excessive friction e.g. masturbation or sexual intercourse with insufficient lubrication
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sensitive skin e.g. in people prone to eczema or dry skin

Depending on the possible underlying trigger or cause, various topical creams may be useful. In some cases, skin swab tests or urine tests may be useful in checking for underlying infections.
Read more about What is a Penile Infection?

2) What are the Causes of Genital Warts?

a) Human Papilloma Virus

This is THE cause of genital warts. Genital warts are skin coloured, fleshy bumps which may occur singly or in clusters around the genital and anal region. They can range from tiny firm bumps to larger, irregular shaped bumps which are classically described as “cauliflower-like” in appearance.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted viral infection. There are many strains of HPV and they are transmitted through sexual contact. Some strains are responsible for genital warts, while other “high risk” strains can lead to an increased risk of cancers such as cervical, oral and anal cancers.
If you have warts, it effectively means you have been infected by at least one strain of HPV. If you are female and you are not already doing your regular PAP smear for cervical cancer, you should do a PAP smear with high risk HPV testing because an individual may have not just one but several strains of HPV. You can read more about PAP smears and cervical cancer screening.
There are various methods available for the treatment of genital warts, ranging from topical medications to freezing or cryosurgery electrosurgery. But one must be prepared that warts can unfortunately recur as the treatment for warts addresses the effects of a HPV infection but does not clear the virus from your body.
The best defence we have against genital warts is the HPV vaccine – Gardasil 9, which provides immunity against certain wart causing strains of HPV.

3) What are the Causes of Genital Ulcers?

When people think of genital ulcers, often the first few causes that spring to mind may be herpes or syphilis. However, genital ulcers can be due to other infections as well as rarer, non-infective causes such as autoimmune diseases.
This is why various tests are useful in differentiating the causes of genital ulcers. The treatment of choice varies drastically depending on what the underlying cause is.
Caused by Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • Herpes Simplex Virus (Common)
  • Syphilis (Common)
  • Chancroid (Rare)
  • LGV (Rare)
  • Donovanosis (Rare)

Non-infective causes

  • Behcet’s (Autoimmune)
  • Crohn’s disease (Autoimmune)
  • Fixed drug eruption (rare causes)
  • Skin Cancer (rare causes)

a) Herpes Simplex Virus

(Painful shallow ulcers and blisters)

As mentioned earlier, both genital blisters and ulcers are different stages of a herpetic flare. A genital skin swab test for the presence of HSV DNA is helpful in confirming HSV as the cause of genital ulcers.

b) Syphilis

(Painless ulcers)

Syphilis can cause ulcers both during its primary and secondary stages.  A chancre, a painless round ulcer, occurs in primary syphilis, while in secondary syphilis, multiple painless ulcers may occur as well. One of the defining traits of a syphilitic ulcer is its painlessness.
These ulcers may be accompanied by other symptoms such as a rash elsewhere on the body.

C) Chancroid

(Multiple painful deep ulcers and swollen groin lymph nodes)

Chancroid is a painful ulcer which is frequently associated with enlarged and painful inguinal (groin) lymph nodes. These are located along your underwear line and may be felt as tender swollen lumps. There are usually several or multiple deep and painful ulcers.
This is caused by a bacterium called Hemophilus ducreyi, which is transmitted through sexual contact. Painful lymph nodes and negative test results for both Herpes and syphilis support this diagnosis. The good news is that antibiotic treatment can clear this up.

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

Small ulcer, swollen groin lymph nodes, possible rectal pain

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is an uncommon cause of genital ulcers. It is caused by the bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis (serovars L1-3). This Chlamydia is different from the “subtype” of Chlamydia trachomat is that causes the common STD you are thinking about. A Rapid Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea PCR test will be about to detect the infection.
The ulcer it causes tends to be small and often goes unnoticed. The lymph node swelling is dramatic and painful and may even discharge pus.
If this was acquired through anal intercourse, inflammation of the anal and rectal canal (known as “proctitis”) can occur, causing rectal pain, bleeding and discharge and diarrhoea.

Donovanosis

Shallow beefy looking ulcers

This is again a rare cause of genital ulcers in the developed world. It is caused by a bacterium called Klebsiella granulomatis and causes shallow ulcers which may bleed easily. This is usually diagnosed with a punch biopsy, which is when a sample of skin tissue is removed for evaluation in the lab.

Other rare causes:

Autoimmune or inflammatory causes, skin cancers, drug reactions

“Autoimmune” diseases occur when your body’s immune system has a tendency to attack itself and one of the many manifestations can be genital ulcers. These are rare and treatment is by a specialist doctor. These ulcers will go away only with good control of the underlying disease.
Sometimes, a bad reaction to a certain medication may cause a persistent, painful ulcer.
Very rarely, genital ulcers may be due to cancer.

All in All

The good news is that most of the above mentioned causes for genital blisters, warts and ulcers can be treated. But an even better step would be to protect yourself from even developing these – safe sexual practices (using barrier protection, doing your regular sexual health screening, and getting the HPV vaccine) are your best bet against these.
Take Care!


  1. HPV Infection & HPV Vaccination for Men who have sex with Men
  2. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  3. How Late Can a Period Be (Delayed Menstrual Cycle)
  4. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  5. STD Risk for Receptive Unprotected Anal Sex in Men
  6. Low HIV Risk Doesn’t Mean No HIV Risk
  7. HIV PrEP for Travel – How You Need to Know
  8. An Overview on STD from an STD Doctor
  9. Everything You Need to Know About Herpes Simplex Virus
  10. How Do I Treat Oral Herpes (Cold Sores)
  11. Syphilis Symptoms – Painless Sore & Ulcers
  12. HIV Symptoms – What You Need to Know
  13. 10 Common HIV related to Opportunistic Infections

What is the Treatment for Cold Sores? What Causes Cold Sores?

What exactly is a cold sore?
You have probably heard of cold sores or even have had one at some point in your life. But perhaps you’re not entirely sure of what it is caused by and what else you may need to be concerned about.
A cold sore is a small, painful, fluid-filled blister that most commonly occurs near the mouth or on the face, although it may infrequently appear elsewhere on the body. Cold sores tend to occur in clusters.  The appearance of a cold sore is sometimes preceded by an unusual tingling or itching sensation over the same area.
The blisters then form and eventually burst, leaving shallow ulcers/open sores which scab over, forming a crusty lesion. They may come and go, with each flare lasting up to a few weeks.

What Causes Cold Sores?


Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus

There are two types of Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV) – Type 1 and Type 2.
Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (Type 1), and genital sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (Type 2).

Herpes Simplex Viruses (Type 1)

HSV-1 usually causes cold sores, while HSV-2 tends to be responsible for genital sores. HSV-1 is extremely common in the general population, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 have HSV-1 globally.
Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV) is transmitted through body secretions.
HSV-1 can be transmitted through saliva via kissing, or sharing of utensils (oral-to-oral transmission), but oral-to-genital secretion can also occur through oral intercourse. This means that someone with cold sores can transmit HSV-1 to their partner’s genitals, resulting in genital sores. An STD Screening can screen for both herpes simplex viruses.
Individuals with HSV are most contagious when they have cold sores, but can still be infectious even when they have no sores or blisters.
Here’s a video about Herpes

Unfortunately, HSV infections are lifelong – meaning there is no cure for HSV and once infected a person carries the virus for life.
This is the reason why cold sores can flare up from time to time. There are certain triggers that can set off an outbreak of cold sores- for instance, environmental factors such as sunlight and cold temperatures, or anything which weakens your immune system, such as an illness, or medications which suppress your immunity.

What is the Treatment for Cold Sores?

Antivirals can help clear up and keep cold sores away.
While there is no cure for HSV, the good news is that anti-viral medications (treatment for cold sores) are extremely effective in suppressing the virus and can be used to treat an outbreak of cold sores, and even prevent or minimise future outbreaks.
Some people may not be significantly bothered by their cold sores, which flare up only occasionally and go away by themselves. However, if you are troubled by your symptoms and worried about transmission of the virus to people around you during a flare, anti-virals such as acyclovir or valacyclovir are available as both oral tablets and topical creams.
Sometimes, just the topical cream (treatment for cold sores) may be enough to address your cold sores but if they fail to respond or if your flare is particularly bad, your doctor may prescribe a short course of tablets on top of the cream.
If you are someone who experiences frequent and painful outbreaks of cold sores, or if you are concerned about transmitting the virus to your loved ones, then suppressive anti-viral therapy may be a good option for you. This is when you take the anti-viral medication on a daily basis in order to achieve continued suppression of the virus just like HIV treatment. This not only stops flares from occurring but also reduces your infectivity and the risk of transmitting HSV to others.
Now that you know a little more about, the cause of and, the treatment for cold sores, hopefully, this has helped you realise that you do not need to live with intermittent painful outbreaks. There are treatment options available in our clinics, so if this is an issue which has been troubling you, then it’s time to make that a thing of the past.
Take Care!

Other Interesting Reads:

  1. An Overview of STD – From an STD Doctor
  2. What are the Symptoms of HIV Infection and AIDS?
  3. Weak Erection? Erectile Dysfunction? How to Improve Erection with Pills
  4. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  5. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  6. What You Need To Know about HPV, Cervical Cancer, Pap Smear & HPV Vaccination
  7. 11 Causes of Dyspareunia (Pain During Intercourse)
  8. 10 Common HIV-related Opportunistic Infections
  9. What is HPV Vaccination (Gardasil 9)
  10. 10 Causes of abnormal Vaginal Lumps and Bumps
  11. An Overview of Gonorrhoea
  12. Genital Warts: The Cauliflower-Like Lumps on the Genitals
  13. How Do I Get an Anonymous HIV Testing?
  14. Syphilis Symptoms (Painless STD Sores & STD Rashes)