Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by infection with the bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women.
Who Gets Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide affecting approximately 61 million people globally. It is most common among those between the ages of 15 and 25, more common in women than men and among men who have sex with men (MSM).
A large number of cases are not reported because most people with chlamydia are asymptomatic and do not seek testing.
How Do People Get Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is transmitted through direct sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner and by sharing sex toys. Chlamydia can also be spread from an untreated mother to her baby during childbirth.
Chlamydia is more common in young people, especially young women. You are more likely to get it if you don't consistently use a condom, or if you have multiple partners.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chlamydia Infection?
Chlamydia is a ‘silent’ infection because most infected people don’t have symptoms but can still pass the disease to others. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner
In women, the following are symptoms commonly seen:
- Pus in urine
- An increase in urine frequency
- An increase in vaginal discharge and abnormal discharge.
- Pain when urinating
- Pain during sex and/or bleeding after sex
- Pain in the lower abdomen - especially when having sex
- Bleeding between periods and/or heavier periods.
- If the infection spreads, you might get lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, nausea, or fever.
Men who are symptomatic typically have:
- Mucoid or watery discharge
- Testicular pain or swelling
- Pain when urinating
- Burning or itching around the opening of your penis
In both men and women, there can be:
- Rectal pain,
- Discharge, and/or bleeding from the anus.
Who Should Be Tested For Chlamydia?
Anyone who is sexually active may get tested. More importantly, people with symptoms as aforementioned should get tested.
For women, your doctor may take a swab from either the cervix or the vagina. In men, either a urine sample or a swab is taken from the tip of the penis. If you have had anal or oral sex, you may have a swab taken from the rectum or throat.
How Often Should One Get Tested?
It is recommended to take a yearly chlamydia screening of all sexually active women younger than 25, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
Pregnant women should be screened during their first prenatal care visit. Pregnant women under 25 or at increased risk for chlamydia (e.g., women who have a new or more than one sex partner) should be screened again in their third trimester.
Women diagnosed with chlamydial infection should be retested approximately 3 months after treatment.
Routine screening is not recommended for men. Sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) should be screened for chlamydial infection at least annually.
What Is The Treatment For Chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. It is advised to abstain from sexual activity for 7 days after single dose antibiotics or until completion of a 7-day course of antibiotics, to prevent spreading the infection to partners. It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure chlamydia.
If a person has been diagnosed and treated for chlamydia, he or she should tell all recent anal, vaginal, or oral sex partners (all sex partners within 60 days before the onset of symptoms or diagnosis) so they can be treated.
How Can Chlamydia Be Prevented?
- Latex male condoms: when used consistently and correctly.
- Abstinence: abstain from vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
- Monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
What Complications Can Result From Chlamydial Infection?
The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, if chlamydia is left untreated it can lead to other health problems. As with most STIs, chlamydia puts you at risk of other STIs, including HIV.
In women, Chlamydia can cause the following:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - infection of the other parts of the female reproductive system (uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes). PID can cause permanent damage to them leading to long-term pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy.
- Cervicitis - inflammation of the cervix
- Blocked fallopian tubes - inflammation of the fallopian tubes then blockage, preventing an egg from traveling from the ovary to the womb.
- Swollen Bartholin’s glands - Chlamydia can cause the glands which produce a woman's lubricating fluid to become blocked and infected.
In men, Chlamydia can cause the following:
- Epididymitis - inflammation of the tubes that carry sperm to the testicles.
- Urethritis - inflammation of the tube carrying urine.
- Reactive arthritis - inflammation of the joints, and in some people, the urethra and the eyes (conjunctivitis).
Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. It may also make it more likely for your baby to be born too early.