Chlamydia affects thousands of people annually. It is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) globally and transmitted through unprotected sex. The bacterium responsible for the infection is Chlamydia trachomatis. Most commonly, it leads to cervicitis in women and urethritis in men. Both sexes can present with proctitis due to unprotected anal sex. Chlamydia is the most prevalent bacterial STD in the US. It affects about 2.86 million people every year. It is more common in younger people, such as adolescents and young adults. 

People with chlamydia do not always report their infection because they don't experience symptoms. Therefore, they do not seek medical consultation and testing. Regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms, untreated chlamydia can lead to life-threatening complications. No ejaculation is necessary for you to acquire chlamydia. Also, you can get chlamydia again once you treated it in the past. Therefore, infection and treatment of chlamydia do not provide you with life-long immunity against the bacterium in the future. The ones at high risk for chlamydia are sexually active young individuals, with or without multiple partners, that practice unprotected sex. 

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that someone might acquire through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Its symptoms may be profound or absent, making it hard to diagnose and easy to spread. Chlamydia usually affects the cervix of women and the urethra of men. Proctitis is also common after unprotected anal sex, especially in men who have sex with men (MSM). In both men and women, the infection is ascendant, meaning that it can affect other reproductive organs, too. 

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Females with cervicitis may experience discharge and intermittent vaginal bleeding. Sometimes, co-infection of the urethra will lead to urinary disturbances, such as frequent visits to the bathroom, and a burning sensation upon urination. Men with chlamydia-induced urethritis may also have mucoid or watery penile discharge, accompanied by painful urination and dysuria. Proctitis in both men and women may lead to rectal pain and bleeding. Finally, contact with the eyes of a person with infected genital secretions may lead to chlamydial conjunctivitis. 

Oral chlamydia is usually asymptomatic but frequently found in the oral cavity and throat of those who had oral sex with infected individuals. Some men may also develop epididymitis, a condition that presents with tenderness, swelling, and pain of one testicle. 

Complications of chlamydia

What happens to the body if chlamydia is left untreated? Chlamydia may be simple to treat but can lead to dangerous complications if left untreated. Although it primarily affects the external genitalia in both sexes, chlamydia infection has the property to ascend. Therefore, simple cervicitis can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). About 10% to 15% of women with untreated chlamydia will develop the disease. Permanent damage to the female reproductive organs will finally result in infertility. Another deadly complication of untreated chlamydia is ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening. 

Fitz-Hugh-Curtis Syndrome, reactive arthritis, and pregnancy

Fitz-Hugh-Curtis Syndrome and reactive arthritis are two rare complications of untreated chlamydia. The first disease affects the liver, causing inflammation. Reactive arthritis affects the joints of individuals with untreated chlamydia. It may present as a triad of symptoms, including arthritis, urethritis, and conjunctivitis. It can affect both sexes. Finally, individuals with untreated chlamydia are more prone to acquiring an HIV infection. 

Keep in mind that pregnant women with untreated chlamydia may put their unborn child in danger. Newborns whose mother had chlamydia during gestation may experience ophthalmia neonatorum and pneumonia. Screening and testing are crucial when it comes to symptomatically silent infections, such as chlamydia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention screening recommendations

There are some general recommendations regarding screening for chlamydia, especially for those who are at high risk. The following are some of the most well-established guidelines regarding screening for chlamydia:

  • Women who are sexually active and 25 years old or younger are at high risk of contracting chlamydia. Therefore, they should get tested minimum once per year, and every time they have a new sex partner.
  • Pregnant women should also get tested for chlamydia, at least during their first prenatal examination. They should get tested again later in their gestation.
  • Individuals at high risk for acquiring the infection should get regularly tested. This group of people involves those who have unprotected sex, those who don't use a condom, or MSM.

Screening procedures include urine tests and swabs. To get your urine tested and obtain the results, you have to visit a doctor and go to a lab. Most people prefer swabs, as they are easier to perform at home, and they provide accurate results without the presence or help of a doctor. To perform a swab test alone, all you have to do is obtain an STD rapid kit test and follow the written instructions or the ones found in every respective video. 

Clinical diagnosis of chlamydia

Clinical diagnosis of chlamydia relies on physical examination and medical history. Your doctor may ask you when was the first time you noticed your symptoms or when was the last time you had unprotected sex. Asking this, your doctor might want to know about the [incubation period of chlamydia] concerning the appearance of your symptoms. You must feel comfortable to tell your physician about your sexual partners and whether you use protection with them or not. Finally, you will have to be able to describe your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. In general, you should be honest and report any discomfort or change in your body. 

Diagnosis test for chlamydia without lab 

What is comfortable about chlamydia is that you can get tested by yourself at home. The procedure includes taking a swab sample from the area of your body that produces the symptoms. Therefore, women should take a swab from the discharge in their vagina and cervix. Both sexes may swab the anal area. Men must insert a thin swab in their urethra to test for chlamydia-related urethritis. Using and STD kit test at home has the same accuracy as a doctor-obtained one. On top of that, you undergo the whole procedure discreetly and in the comfort of your homeplace. 

Keep in mind that chlamydia infection can be asymptomatic. The whole purpose of screening procedures is to detect and identify early or asymptomatic infections. Therefore, if you belong in any of the high-risk groups for chlamydia, it is better to screen yourself regularly. You may do so independently and regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. Nevertheless, chlamydia is easily treatable with antibiotics, especially if discovered early. 

Test options for chlamydia patients