Chlamydia

Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and is the most common bacterial STD in the United States. Although it can be easily treated with antibiotics, many people do not realize they have it and do not get treatment.

Women who have chlamydia and do not get treatment often develop a more serious infection of the reproductive organs which can lead to scarring of the reproductive tract, chronic pain in the pelvis, and infertility. Man can also experience complications although they are rare.

Transmission: 

Chlamydia bacteria are found in bodily fluids and can be transmitted by an infected person during unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Chlamydia most commonly infects the reproductive tract, but can occur in the rectum (as a result of receiving anal sex from an infected person) or in the throat (as a result of giving oral sex to an infected person).

Prevention: 

You can avoid getting chlamydia by abstaining from vaginal, anal, and oral sex, or by engaging in vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex only with a monogamous partner who has been tested and shown to be free of the infection.

If you do engage in vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex and are not certain of your partner's STD status, you can reduce the risk of transmission by using a latex barrier. A latex male condom should be used during any contact between the penis and the vagina, mouth, or anus. If performing oral sex on a woman who might be infected, covering the area with a dental dam can reduce the risk of passing the bacteria.

Symptoms: 

Chlamydia is difficult to detect because the symptoms of the STD are typically mild or absent. If there are symptoms, they generally appear at between 1-3 weeks after exposure. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low back pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Pain during sexual activity
Diagnosis: 

A medical provider can diagnose chlamydia by taking a sample of bodily fluid from the affected area and examining it in a lab. In women, a swab may be taken from the cervix (inside the vagina) during a pelvic exam. In men, a health care provider may swab the opening of the penis (urethra). It is also possible to test a urine sample for chlamydia.

Treatment: 

Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics, most often azithromycin or doxycycline. People who are infected should not have sex until they have completed treatment. Women and men can be re-infected if their sexual partners are not also treated for the STD.

For More Information: 

The CDC STD fact sheets are a good source of current, accurate information about chlamydia, as well as the American Social Health Association.

Disclaimer: 
This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for medical advice. If you have any symptoms that you suspect may indicate an STD or other infection, please consult a doctor or medical professional. A good resource for STD testing, treatment and family planning services is http://www.plannedparenthood.org.
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