Chlamydia – symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention

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What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.

how do you get chlamydia?
You can get chlamydia during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the infection. A woman can also pass on chlamydia to her baby during delivery.

If you have had chlamydia and have been treated in the past, you can get reinfected if you have unprotected sex with someone who is infected.

Who is at risk of getting a chlamydia infection?
Chlamydia is more common in young people, especially women. You are more likely to get it if you don’t always use a condom, or if you have multiple partners.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia usually has no symptoms, so you may not realize you have it. People with chlamydia without symptoms can infect others. If you do have symptoms, they may appear several weeks after having sex with an infected partner.

Symptoms in women include:

Abnormal vaginal discharge, which may have a strong odor
Burning sensation when urinating
Pain during sexual intercourse
If the infection spreads, you may develop lower abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, nausea, or fever.

Symptoms in men include:

Penile discharge
Burning sensation when urinating
Burning or itching around the opening of the penis
Pain and swelling in one or both testicles, although this is less common
If chlamydia infects the rectum it can cause rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding in both men and women.

How can I tell if I have chlamydia?
Chlamydia is diagnosed with laboratory tests. Your doctor may ask you for a urine sample. In women, a cotton swab is sometimes used to obtain a sample from the vagina to test for chlamydia.

Who should be tested for chlamydia?
You should see your healthcare provider for an exam if you have symptoms of chlamydia, or if your partner has a sexually transmitted disease. Pregnant women should be tested when they go for their first prenatal visit.

People at the highest risk who should be tested for chlamydia each year are:

Sexually active women aged 25 or younger
Older women who have new or multiple sexual partners, or a partner with a sexually transmitted disease
Men who have sex with men (MSM)
What other problems can chlamydia cause?
In women, an untreated chlamydia infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease. This condition can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system. This can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have had chlamydia infections more than once are at higher risk of serious reproductive health complications.

Men generally do not have health problems from chlamydia. Sometimes it can infect the epididymis, the tube through which sperm travel. This can cause pain, fever, and rarely, infertility.

Chlamydia infection can also cause reactive arthritis in both men and women. This type of arthritis occurs as a “reaction” to an infection in the body.

Babies born to mothers infected with chlamydia can get eye infections and pneumonia. It may also be more likely that the baby will be born early.

Untreated chlamydia can also increase your chances of getting or transmitting HIV/AIDS.

What are the treatments for chlamydia?
The infection is cured with antibiotics. It is possible to get them in a single dose, or you may have to take medication for seven days. Antibiotics will not cure any permanent damage caused by the disease.

To avoid infecting your partner, you should not have sexual intercourse until the infection is over. If you received a single dose of antibiotics, you must wait seven days after taking the medicine before having sex again. If you must take medicine for seven days, you should not have sexual intercourse until the treatment is finished.

Re-infection is common, so you should be tested again about three months after finishing treatment.

How can chlamydia be prevented?
The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Using latex condoms correctly greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of getting and spreading chlamydia. If your partner is allergic to latex , it may help to use polyurethane condoms.

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