What is Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a treatable and easy to catch bacterial infection, since it often causes no symptoms at all. Carriers transmit the disease without even realizing it. However, no symptoms does not mean that everything is fine, on the contrary, this disease may seriously damage your reproductive system. If left untreated, of course.
According to the World Health Organization, 129 million people in the world were diagnosed with chlamydia in 2020. Almost 1 million 600 cases were registered in the United States alone. In Ukraine, it is also among the top sexually transmitted diseases, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine recommends that men and women be tested for this infection annually. In the United States and the United Kingdom, chlamydia is most common among adolescents and young adults, so it is recommended that sexually active boys and girls under 25 years of age undergo an annual examination.
I recommend for sexually active women and men who do not always use a condom to be tested for chlamydia every six months.
Causes of chlamydia
Unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex is the most often reason for the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis spreading. It is found in the semen or vaginal secretions of an infected person. Note that you can get infected, even if there was no penetration, just by touching the genitals of an infected partner. Newborns can get this disease from their mother during childbirth.
However, you cannot get infected from kissing, hugging or using the same utensils.
There is no immunity from chlamydia. So, after successful treatment, you can get infected again. And again, and again, and an infinite number of times if you do not use a condom during sex with an untested partner.
Symptoms of chlamydia
According to studies, from 40% to 96% of infected people do not have any symptoms. If they do, they usually appear within one to three weeks after infection.
Symptoms of chlamydia in women
- Non-typical vaginal discharge that may have an unpleasant odor
- Bleeding between periods, may be just brown smearing discharge
- Pain during menstruation
- Abdominal pain along with fever
- Pain during sex
- Itching or burning in the vagina or outside in the vulva area
- Pain during urination
Symptoms of chlamydia in men
- Transparent or mucous-like discharge from the penis
- Painful urination
- Burning and itching of the penis
- Pain and swelling in the testicles area
Chlamydia may also appear in other parts of the body, including the anus, throat and eyes. Symptoms include:
Anus: discomfort and discharge
Throat: mostly no symptoms
Eyes: redness, pain and discharge
The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis can have significant consequences for your health if left untreated. That is why at the beginning of pregnancy, it is mandatory to be tested for chlamydia. Detecting and treating the infection in time are crucial.
Complications in women
The most serious problem is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), a condition that usually requires hospital treatment and sometimes emergency care. The inflammation may cause diseases of the uterus, cervix and ovaries. And there are more:
- Infertility due to the formation of scar tissue in the fallopian tubes, which reduces their patency or blocks them totally
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Chronic abdominal pain
- Premature birth
- Infection of the child during delivery, which can cause eye infections, blindness and pneumonia
Complications in men
Men rarely have complications. However, prolonged presence of the infection in the body may cause epididymitis (inflammation of man’s epididymis: a tube at the back of the testicle that carries sperm), causing pain and swelling. Moreover, man may get epididymo-orchitis: if the condition spreads from your epididymis to your testicle, which requires surgical intervention. Without treatment, everything can end in infertility.
Sometimes, chlamydia causes inflammation of the rectum – proctitis.
Complications for both sexes
- Greater risk of contracting HIV.
- In rare cases, reactive arthritis: a condition that causes inflammation in various joints of the body, usually in the knees, ankles and feet.
- Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) is an inflammation of the urethra.
Treatment of chlamydia
Surely, the main thing is prevention! You should always take care of the reliable barrier contraception with a new partner, as well as with the one who has other sexual partners. That is, a high-quality and properly worn condom.
If you do get infected, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics. If you have a regular partner, you should take them together and abstain from sexual intercourse.
Remember: do not have sex until you both get a negative test for chlamydia after you and your partner have been treated!
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You can learn more about your health and body from my courses: A girl becomes a woman, All about you. What it’s like to be a Woman, All about you 35+.
You can always find your doctor at the Lior Medical Center.