Chlamydia is one of the highest reported reproductive infections in the United States. This disease is sexually transmitted and can be passed from mother to baby during birth. Chlamydia may not have any symptoms and can lead to infertility if left untreated. This article explains what chlamydia is, the symptoms, and how it is treated.
What Is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of the reproductive organs that is transmitted during sex. Around 3 million people each year contract the disease within the United States alone. This infection is most prevalent in young adults age 25 and younger. It is found in the cervix, vagina, anal canal, urethra, throat, and eyes.
Symptoms of Genital Infection
There are often no symptoms of chlamydia and this can lead to serious complications of the reproductive organs. When there are symptoms, they usually appear between 1 to 3 weeks after sexual contact with an infected person. Symptoms include:
Vaginal or penile discharge
Lower abdominal and/or pelvic pain
Pain during sex
Burning with urination
Bleeding between periods
Bleeding or discharge from the rectum (after anal sex)
Sore throat, fever, and cough (after oral sex)
What Causes Chlamydia?
The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis is responsible for this sexually transmitted disease (STD). An infected person spreads the infection through unprotected sexual contact. It can be transmitted during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. If the bacteria come in contact with the eyes, it can cause chlamydia conjunctivitis. Mothers can pass the infection to babies during birth.
Chlamydia is diagnosed by swabbing the discharge from the vagina, eyes, or penis. Alternatively, a urine test can be done.
If you have the symptoms above, see your doctor as soon as possible for testing. If you do not have symptoms, it is recommended that women who are sexually active have the test yearly. It is very important for all women to be tested at the beginning of pregnancy.
Treatment for Chlamydia
Treatment for chlamydia involves taking antibiotics, abstaining from sex, and treating any partners to prevent reinfection. Antibiotic therapy can either be given in a large single dose, or lower doses over a 7-day period.
Chlamydia needs to be treated right away. Waiting to get treatment can cause damage to the reproductive organs. Antibiotics can cure chlamydia, but will not take care of any permanent affects to the reproductive organs.
Other Conditions Caused by Chlamydia Trachomatis
Lymphogranuloma Venereum. Chlamydia can also lead to infection in the lymph nodes near the genitals and painful ulcers in the genital area. It was once a rare complication, but is now coming back as more prevalent.
Trachoma. This is a type of conjunctivitis (eye infection) caused by the chlamydia bacterium. It causes the inside of the eyelids to become rough and can lead to blindness. It is most common in areas of poor sanitation and is highly contagious, even without sexual contact.
Complications of Chlamydia
One of the most common complications of chlamydia is infertility and if you do get pregnant, miscarriage. This usually happens because of scarring and damage due to the infection not being treated soon enough. Other complications are:
Reactive Arthritis. Chlamydia can trigger inflammation in the body and affect the joints. This is a pretty rare complication, but if it happens it usually goes away within a few months after the infection is treated.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease -PID. If Chlamydia is left untreated (which is often the case because many patients have no symptoms) it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women.This condition occurs when bacteria spread from the cervix into the uterus and even farther up into the fallopian tubes. PID can lead to scarring of the affected reproductive organs, which can cause infertility and ectopic pregnancies.
Lifestyle Changes for Chlamydia
If you have been diagnosed with chlamydia, you may need to implement the following lifestyle changes:
Refrain from sexual intercourse until properly treated
Use a condom to prevent further infections
Tell any sexual partners that they may have been exposed
Prevention of Chlamydia
Chlamydia can be prevented by practicing safe sex. Use these tips to help prevent this infection from occurring:
If you have a new partner, talk about their sexual behavior before engaging in intercourse. Ask if they used condoms frequently and had multiple partners. They may have a sexually transmitted disease and not even know.
Use caution if you sleep with multiple partners. Be aware of their history and don’t be afraid to ask questions or say no to sex if you are unsure.
Do not have sex with someone who has symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease.
Always use a condom if you are not in a monogamous relationship. Men should always put a condom on before any sexual act including oral sex. Females should insist on condom use even if they are using birth control pills.
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