Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease. It is a bacterial infection that affects both women and men and transmits during sexual contact.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the year 2015, there were more than 1.5 million cases reported for Chlamydia in the USA. This makes a rate of almost 480 cases per group of 100,000 populations, which has been increasing since the year 2001.
What is a Chlamydia Infection?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Chlamydia Trachomatis bacteria (C. Trachomatis). Some scientists consider it to be among the most common bacterial STDs in the world.
The bacterial STD can affect several different organs such as the vagina, penis, urethra, cervix, eye, anus, throat and can also cause serious and oftentimes permanent damage to the reproductive system in both men and women.
Since the year 1994, chlamydia is a common STD being reported to the CDC. It is better to learn more about chlamydia because education is so important here. It is imperative to learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments options of chlamydia.
Quick Facts on Chlamydia:
- Chlamydia happens to be 3 times more common than gonorrhea and 50 times more common than syphilis.
- Most people suffering from chlamydia do not show any viable symptoms
- Chlamydia leads to serious issues and oftentimes permanent damage to the reproductive system
- The STI can transmit to an infant during childbirth, potentially causing pneumonia or eye infection
- Chlamydia infection can be easily treated and requires prescribed antibiotics by both the partners to eliminate the bacteria from their bodies
A patient may exhibit chlamydia symptoms 5 to 10 days after they have contracted the infection, it is also not uncommon to have no symptoms at all. Abdominal pain is the most frequent symptom in women with chlamydia.
Symptoms of Chlamydia in Women
Some of the common chlamydia symptoms women show are:
- Abdominal pain
- Heavy bleeding between periods
- Large quantities of vaginal chlamydia discharge that is yellowish in color and has a foul smell
- Painful sex
- Bleeding after sex
- Low-grade fever
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Swelling around the anus or in the vagina
- Need to urinate more often
- Discomfort while urinating
Symptoms of Chlamydia in Men
These symptoms may include:
- Pain and burning sensation while urinating
- Milky, watery, pus-like penile discharge
- Testicle tenderness and swelling
In case the rectum gets affected in either women or men, it causes anal irritation. Most people, though, do not show any chlamydia symptoms at all.
Getting Chlamydia Treated
Many people ask if chlamydia is curable. Yes, chlamydia is curable! The treatment of this STD is extremely imperative as if left untreated; it can lead to long-term effects, which mainly include ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
Antibiotics prove to be an effective treatment option to cure chlamydia. However, it is imperative that the patient follows proper instructions. In most cases, the medication prescribed is in tablet form. It is crucial to repeat the testing process after 3 to 4 months of taking the treatment, depending on various risk factors.
Chlamydia treatment possible includes:
- Azithromycin - The patient generally receives a single dose
- Doxycycline – The patient is prescribed to take the medication for a week. It is crucial that the course is completed to ensure that the infection does not show up again.
Some patients, such as expecting mothers, may be prescribed with alternative antibiotics. This is because tetracycline or Doxycycline may affect the development of fetus teeth and bones. Azithromycin, on the other hand, has shown to be effective and safe.
The following antibiotics are prescribed as alternatives, and have been recommended by the CDC:
Some people may experience adverse effects after taking these antibiotics, including
- Stomach ache
- Gastrointestinal issues
In most cases, these side effects are of a mild nature. However, patients taking doxycycline may experience rashes on the skin if they are being exposed to sunlight. If chlamydia is left untreated, around 10 to 15 percent of the women may develop the pelvic inflammatory disease.
Treatment of chlamydia in men is equally important. If not treated, the STD can reactive arthritic and lead to epididymitis.
Depending on the diagnoses, an individual may also be treated for gonorrhea, another common STD, as these two bacteria generally occur together.
Chlamydia diagnosis may include a physical examination to ensure the presence of physical symptoms such as chlamydia discharge. It may also include taking swab samples from the throat, urethra, cervix, penis, rectum or it could be done from a urine sample.
As chlamydia shows no or very few symptoms, doctors generally recommend regular screening. The CDC recommends chlamydia screening for:
- Expecting Mothers
- An individual who is sexually active
- Women who are under the age of 25
- High-risk men and women
How Is Chlamydia Screening Done?
Women can go through the screening process in the lab or even at home, either by taking a swab sample from the lower vagina or with a urine sample. The swab is placed in a container and sent to the lab. Alternatively there is a home swap test that can be done in the privacy of your home:
For men, a urine sample is most commonly used.
It is best to talk to your doctor about the best technique to test for each individual’s situation. Some people may have throat or rectal testing, especially those suffering from HIV.
Having unprotected sex with an infected individual is the prime cause of catching chlamydia infection. The STD may be contracted by unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an affected person. Use of condoms, on the other hand, can help reduce the risk of contracting chlamydia.
Genital contact can also transmit the infection.
As chlamydia contraction does not show any symptoms in nearly 70 percent of the STI carriers, an infected individual may transmit it on to their sexual partner without even knowing about it.
The infection cannot be contracted through:
- Sharing sauna with the infected individuals
- Using the same toilet seat that has already been used by an infected individual
- Sharing a swimming pool with an infected person
- Standing close to an infected individual,
- Inhaling the air they have sneezed or coughed in
- Touching the skin of an infected person
- Sharing the same bed with an infected individual
However, an infected mother may pass on the STD onto her child during birth. Oftentimes, the infection may lead to complications for the baby, such as pneumonia. If the mother contracted chlamydia during pregnancy, she requires a screening 3 to 4 weeks after her treatment to ensure the infection does not come back.
How To Prevent Chlamydia?
There are several different methods that help prevent chlamydia contraction and transmission. These methods include:
- Use of condoms
- Regular screening
- Using dental gum during oral sex
To prevent the spread of chlamydia, it is recommended that the partners avoid any sexual activity until their treatment is complete. If a one-time dose antibiotic medication is prescribed, it is recommended for the partners to avoid sexual contact until 7 to 10 days after they have completed their treatment.
Chlamydia is curable. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can greatly help reduce the risk of complications. However, complications can also be prevented with regular screening or by seeking medical assistance as soon as chlamydia symptoms show up.
Some of the common complications related to chlamydia in women include:
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – This is an infection that affects the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, which can eventually lead to infertility. Around 10 to 15 percent of women develop PID if they leave chlamydia untreated.
- Cervicitis – This causes inflammation of the neck of the womb
- Salpingitis – This is when inflammation occurs in the fallopian tubes. There is a considerably increased risk of having an ectopic pregnancy
Complications that may show in men include:
- Reactive Arthritis – It is a possible complication of chlamydia, which affects both men and women. Moreover, it is a chronic form of inflammatory arthritis. This can include conjunctivitis, arthritis, and inflammation of urinary, genital and gastrointestinal systems.
- Urethritis – The urethra – a tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis, becomes inflamed
- Epididymitis – It is when the epididymis gets inflamed –a structure within the scrotum. Some of the common symptoms include swollen, red, and warm scrotum, tenderness and testicular pain.
Chlamydia also increases the risk of getting HIV. Expecting mothers who have chlamydia may pass on the infection to their child during birth, which could cause lung damage, pneumonia, or even blindness.
The complications related to chlamydia are potentially serious, so early screening and proper treatment are extremely important!