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Chlamydia

  • Medical Author:

    Debra Houry, MD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and in the Department of Behavioral Science and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health. She is currently the Director for the Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health and teaches several courses on violence and injury prevention at Emory.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Chlamydia Related Articles

What Should I Know about Chlamydia in Men and Women?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STD). It is an infectious bacterial disease that is spread from person to person while having sexual relations. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia in Men and Women?

Chlamydia may not cause any symptoms until several weeks after you had sexual relations. Most people do not know that they have the infection.Signs and symptoms of chlamydia in women include an abnormal vaginal discharge and abdominal pain. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia in men include a burning sensation while urinating, and rarely, swelling and pain in one or both testicles.

What Causes Chlamydia? How Does it Spread? What about Pregancy?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection with Chlamydia trachomatisteria. When a person is infected with Chlamydia, bacteria can be found in the vagina, cervix, urethra,  rectum, and throat. Any type of sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral) with an infected person can spread the infection. Young people who are sexually active are at high risk for chlamydia.

An infected mother can also spread the infection to her baby at the time of birth as the baby passes through the vaginal canal. The most common complications of chlamydia acquired through the birth canal are eye damage and pneumonia in the newborn. Even after a person has been treated for chlamydia, it is possible to get the infection again. With chlamydia, repeat infection is common.

How Many Adults Have Chlamydia?

Over 2.8 million people are infected with chlaymdia year. Among adults, about 5% of the population is estimated to be infected. Among sexually active adolescent females, about 10% are infected. Infection with chlamydia is most commonly found among young adults (24 years and younger), people living in urban areas, African Americans, and people with lower social and economic status.

How do you get Chlamydia?

Chlamydia infection is spread by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. 

What is the Treatment for Chlamydia? Can it Be Cured?

Chlamydia can be cured with a 7-day course of antibiotic therapy.

What Causes Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is an infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is spread in two ways, from one person to another through sexual contact (oral, anal, or vaginal), or from mother to child with passage of the child through the birth canal. Chlamydia can cause pneumonia or serious eye infections in a newborn, especially among children born to infected mothers in developing countries.

What Are Chlamydia Symptoms in Men and Women?

Symptoms of chlamydia infection depend on gender.

Chlamydia Symptoms in Women

Usually chalmydia caused no symptoms. When symptoms do occur they are bleeding after sexual relations or between menstrual periods, lower abdominal pain and burning pain during urination, and discharge from the vagina.

Chlamydia Symptoms in Men

Like women, men who are infected may not show symptoms of chlamydia, but when symptoms do occur, they are a discharge from the penis, pain, burning during urination, inflammation or infection of a duct in the testicles, and tenderness or pain in the testicles.

Estimates of those with no symptoms range from 25% to 50% of infected men.

When Should You Call a Doctor if You Think You Have Chlamydia?

Call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, fever, abdominal pain, discharge from the penis or vagin, pain with urination and during intercourse, and frequent urination. Sexual contact with someone infected with chlamydia most often are sexual partners and should be told that you have chlamydial. , and this is the first indication of the presence of the disease. All partners of an infected person should be treated to prevent the spread of the infection back and forth.

When to go to the hospital

Chlamydial infections can develop into serious medical conditions if not treated.

Women: Pelvic inflammatory disease is a serious medical condition, which occurs in a significant portion of untreated cases and can lead to sterility. Fever, abdominal pain, and vaginal discharge can be symptoms of this disease. Women with these symptoms need to go imeediately to a hospital's emergency department or urgent care facility for treatment.

Men: Fever, discharge from the penis, and painful urination may signal an infection, which may involve inflammation of the testicles. Men with these symptoms need to go immediately to a hospital's emergency department or urgent care facility for treatment.

QUESTION

Condoms are the best protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See Answer

What Exams and Tests Diagnose Chlamydia?

The healthcare professional will conduct the following exams and tests. He or she will check for tenderness for women in the area of the sex organs, pus from the vagina or penis, and fever could indicate an infection. Diagnostic tests may be ordered that may include looking at samples of the discharge under a microscope or obtaining cultures to identify the disease-causing bacteria. Some diagnostic tests may include obtaining cultures or sending urine to the laboratory to determine if you are infected. You may also be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases because many patients with chlamydia also have other infections such as gonorrhea or trichomonas.

What Antibiotics Treat and Cure Chlamydia? What Should I Do After I'm Cured?

Treated with antibiotics, chlamydial infections can be cured most of the time. Your may prescribe a single-dose antibiotic, such as azithromycin (Zithromax), taken as a pill. On the other hand, the doctor may choose an antibiotic, such as doxycycline (Atridox, Bio-Tab), to be taken as a pill twice a day for a week. Up to 95% of people will be cured after one course of antibiotics.

Finish the entire course of antibiotics your doctor prescribes, even if you're feeling fine and symptoms go away. Notify any and all sexual partners of infection. They should be treated or tested so the infection is not passed back and forth. Be retested if your symptoms continue or you think you have been reinfected. Having the infection once does not confer immunity to repeat infection. Use latex condoms during sexual intercourse.

What Are the Complications of Chlamydia? What If It is Not Treated?

Complications of untreated chlamydia include a significant number of women will develop pelvic inflammatory disease; some women with pelvic inflammatory disease will develop a form of liver disease (perihepatitis); women may develop chronic pelvic pain and become sterile due to blockage of the Fallopian tubes that allow the egg to be transported from the ovary to the women's womb.

More common in men, some may develop sexually acquired reactive arthritis or Reiter syndrome. Men may experience painful swelling of the testicles.

How Can Chlamydia be Prevented?

Chlamydia can be prevented by using latex condoms when having sexual intercourse. Avoid sexual contact with high-risk partners. Treat infected sexual partners or have them tested before having sexual relations. Up to one-fourth of sexual partners will be reinfected because the partner wasn't treated.

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Chlamydia Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia in men and women?

Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease because the majority of infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure.

In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix and the urethra (urine canal). Women who have symptoms might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. If the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. Chlamydial infection of the cervix can spread to the rectum.

Men with signs or symptoms might have a discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. Men might also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis. Pain and swelling in the testicles are uncommon.

Men or women who have receptive anal intercourse may acquire chlamydial infection in the rectum, which can cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding. Chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected partner.

SOURCE: CDC.gov. Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet.

Reviewed on 1/23/2019
References
REFERENCES:

Quershi, S, MD, et al. Chlamydia (Chlamydial Genitourinary Infections). Medscape. Updated: Sep 25, 2018.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/789188-overview>

CDC.gov. Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet. CDC. Last review: Jan 23, 2014.
<http://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/STDFact-Chlamydia.htm>

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