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Chlamydia

Chlamydia Related Articles

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infectious disease transmitted when people have sexual relations. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States, with over 2.8 million affected individuals each 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 the following groups:

  • Young adults (24 years and younger)
  • People living in urban areas
  • African Americans
  • Those with lower social and economic status

Chlamydia Causes

Chlamydia is an infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is transmitted in 2 ways:

  • From one person to another through sexual contact (oral, anal, or vaginal).
  • 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

  • No symptoms in a majority of cases
  • Bleeding after sexual relations or between menstrual periods
  • Lower abdominal pain and burning pain during urination
  • Discharge from the vagina

Chlamydia Symptoms in Men

Like women, men who are infected may not show symptoms. Estimates of those with no symptoms range from 25% to 50% of infected men.

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Pain, burning during urination
  • Inflammation or infection of a duct in the testicles, tenderness or pain in the testicles

When to Seek Medical Care for Chlamydia

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Pain with urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Frequent urination
  • Sexual contact with an infected person. Most often, a sexual partner is informed about a chlamydial infection, 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.

Chlamydia Diagnosis

The health care practitioner will conduct the following exams and tests.

Physical Examination

Tenderness for women in the area of the sex organs, pus from the vagina or penis, and fever could indicate an infection.

Diagnostic Tests

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.

Chlamydia Medications and Treatment

The health care practitioner 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.

Is Chlamydia Curable?

Treated with antibiotics, chlamydial infections can be cured most of the time.

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.

Chlamydia Follow-up

  • 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.

Chlamydia Prevention

  • Use 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.

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.

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Reviewed on 9/11/2017
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