What is chlamydia, what are the symptoms of this infection, and how is it treated are the questions this article will answer.
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is a bacterial infection that can affect both men and women. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) it is one of the most common bacterial STD’s in the United States. It is particularly common among sexually active adolescents and young adults. It is estimated that almost 3 million cases occur annually and as many as one in 10 adolescent females test positive for it. Among all age groups, teens and young adults have the highest rates of infection however anyone who is sexually active is at risk.
The chlamydia infection is spread by having sexual contact with another person that is infected. Both men and women can carry the bacteria and pass it to each other. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. If left untreated, it can be difficult for a woman to get pregnant. Potentially, it can also cause what is called a fatal ectopic pregnancy. This is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb where the fetus cannot live. If a baby is carried to full term, chlamydia can be passed to the baby during childbirth. If left untreated it may lead to blindness and/or complications of pneumonia, which can be fatal.
It is reported that people who are tested for chlamydia often have gonorrhea as well. Therefore, people should be tested for both at the same time to ensure proper treatment.
What are the symptoms of the Chlamydia infection?
Many people have no symptoms or they do not get them right away. If there are symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after it has been contracted. However, even when women have no symptoms, their reproductive system could be damaged.
When symptoms in men occur, they can include:
– A discharge from their penis;
– Burning sensation when urinating;
– An itching sensation around the opening of the penis;
– Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common).
If left untreated in men, it may lead to:
– Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)
– Scarring of the urethra
– Epididymitis (inflammation of the long cord-like structure that runs along the back of each testes)
When symptoms in women occur, they can include:
– Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odor
– Bleeding between periods
– Painful periods
– Abdominal pain with fever
– Pain during intercourse
– Itching or burning in or around the vagina
– Pain when urinating
Untreated infections in women may lead to:
– Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – a serious infection of a woman’s reproductive organs;
– Cystitis (urinary bladder inflammation);
– Cervical inflammation
Men and women can both carry the bacteria in their rectum. When symptoms occur, they can cause:
– Rectal pain;
In some cases, it has been reported that untreated chlamydia may lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a disorder that causes three seemingly unrelated symptoms:
– arthritis (joint inflammation);
– redness of the eyes, and;
– urinary tract problems.
How is the Chlamydia Infection Treated?
There are laboratory tests to used diagnose chlamydia. This requires a simple urine sample. It can be cured with the right treatment. A doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to cure the infection. It is important that people take the entire prescription. The medication should not be shared with anyone. When taken properly it will stop the bacteria and could decrease any chances of having complications later on.
Repeat infection is common. Once a patient has been tested and treated, they should be tested three months after the first treatment. Even if there are no symptoms after the first treatment and your partner was treated too, get tested anyway.
The only way to completely avoid this and other STD’s is to abstain (not be sexually active). Those who are sexually active can do the following things to lower their chances of getting the chlamydia infection:
– Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results;
– Use latex condoms at all times.
Do you think you have been exposed? Don’t panic. Chlamydia is curable and easy to treat when it’s detected early.