What Is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S., with about four million cases each year. It affects both men and women.
What Are Symptoms of Chlamydia?
Most people infected with chlamydia have no symptoms, which is why the infection can spread easily. Up to 70% of men and up to 90% of women with chlamydia have no symptoms.
When symptoms do occur, they can range from mild to serious and may include:
- Burning or pain with urination
- Abdominal pain
Additional symptoms of chlamydia in men include:
- Discharge from the penis
- Testicular pain or tenderness
- Swelling in the scrotum
Additional symptoms of chlamydia in women include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Painful sexual intercourse
Both men and women who have anal sex with infected men can develop chlamydia infection in the rectum or anus which can cause:
- Rectal pain
Chlamydia may also cause an inflammation of the conjunctiva (conjunctivitis) if a person is exposed to semen or vaginal discharge from an infected person.
In rare cases, chlamydia can cause reactive arthritis which can cause symptoms such as:
- Joint pain (arthritis)
- Inflammation of the inner part of the eye (uveitis)
What Causes Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is caused by infection by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is spread during intimate sexual contact.
Is Chlamydia Contagious?
Chlamydia is contagious and it is spread most commonly during intimate sexual contact. A man does not need to ejaculate to spread the infection.
Risk factors that increase the chance of getting chlamydia include:
- A new sexual partner
- Having more than one sexual partner
- Having a previous chlamydia infection and having sex with a partner who has not been treated for the infection
Patients are considered contagious until they have received a week of antibiotic treatment.
How Is Chlamydia Diagnosed?
Chlamydia is diagnosed with a urine sample or with a swab of fluid from the vagina or cervix (in women), from the urethra (in men), or from the rectum in women and men.
Results are usually available within 24 hours.
What Is the Treatment for Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. The recommended treatment is 1 g azithromycin taken orally in a single dose. Azithromycin is safe for use during pregnancy.
Other antibiotics may be used if patients are unable to take azithromycin, such as:
- Doxycycline 100 mg orally twice a day for 7 days
- Erythromycin base 500 mg orally four times a day for 7 days
- Erythromycin ethylsuccinate 800 mg orally four times a day for 7 days
- Levofloxacin 500 mg orally once daily for 7 days
- Ofloxacin 300 mg orally twice a day for 7 days
Patients are advised to avoid sex for seven days after completing the antibiotic treatment because the infection is still contagious during this period.
Sexual partners should also be treated:
- All sexual partners of the patient in the last 60 days should be tested for chlamydia, even if they do not have symptoms
- It is possible to be re-infected with chlamydia, and the most common reason this occurs is when sexual partners are not treated
After treatment, patients should be re-tested for chlamydia about three months after their diagnosis because many people are re-infected from untreated sexual partners.
How Do You Prevent Chlamydia?
Chlamydia may be prevented by:
- Avoiding sexual intercourse (this is the best way to prevent infection, but also the least practical for many people)
- Use condoms every time you have sex
- Tell your doctor about any sexually transmitted infections and receive an annual chlamydia screening
- See your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms of chlamydia or another infection
- Do not have sex if you or your sexual partner has any symptoms of chlamydia such as abnormal discharge, burning with urination, or a genital rash or sore
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