What is Chlamydia?
“Chlamydia (kluh-MID-e-uh) trachomatis (truh-KOH-muh-tis) is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. You might not know you have chlamydia because many people don't have signs or symptoms, such as genital pain and discharge from the vagina or penis.”
How do you get it?
Chlamydia is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex when one of the partners has the infection. If an individual has previously been treated for the bacterial infection, they are still at risk of contracting it again.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage your reproductive system.
Women with symptoms may notice
- An abnormal vaginal discharge;
- A burning sensation when urinating.
Symptoms in men can include
- A discharge from their penis;
- A burning sensation when urinating;
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common).
Men and women can also get infected with chlamydia in their rectum. This happens either by having receptive anal sex, or by spread from another infected site (such as the vagina). While these infections often cause no symptoms, they can cause
- Rectal pain;
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STI or symptoms of an STI. STI symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.
What are some complications that can arise?
Mayo Clinic has created a list of complications that Chlamydia can be associated with:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes that causes pelvic pain and fever. Severe infections might require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics. PID can damage the fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus, including the cervix.
- Infection near the testicles (epididymitis). A chlamydia infection can inflame the coiled tube located beside each testicle (epididymis). The infection can result in fever, scrotal pain and swelling.
- Prostate gland infection. Rarely, the chlamydia organism can spread to a man's prostate gland. Prostatitis can cause pain during or after sex, fever and chills, painful urination, and lower back pain.
- Infections in newborns. The chlamydia infection can pass from the vaginal canal to your child during delivery, causing pneumonia or a serious eye infection.
- Ectopic pregnancy. This occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. The pregnancy needs to be removed to prevent life-threatening complications, such as a burst tube. A chlamydia infection increases this risk.
- Infertility. Chlamydia infections — even those that produce no signs or symptoms — can cause scarring and obstruction in the fallopian tubes, which might make women infertile.
- Reactive arthritis. People who have Chlamydia trachomatis are at higher risk of developing reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter's syndrome. This condition typically affects the joints, eyes and urethra — the tube that carries urine from your bladder to outside of your body.
As the most common sexually transmitted infection, and one of the most difficult infections to diagnose early on, it’s incredibly important that safety precautions are set in place when you are sexually active. Some good measures to take to stay safer include;
- Condoms. When used correctly, male or female condoms decrease your risk of contracting Chlamydia.
- Screenings. When you are sexually active, it’s very important to have regular discussions with your doctor in regard to your sexual health. If you have multiple partners, you should talk to your doctor to schedule regular screenings for chlamydia as well as other STI’s.
- Treatment. If you have concluded that you have contracted Chlamydia, the good news is that it can be easily cured with antibiotics. According to the CDC, once you have received your antibiotics:
“Persons with chlamydia should 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. Medication for chlamydia should not be shared with anyone. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease. If a person’s symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, he or she should return to a health care provider to be re-evaluated.”