Definition

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection. It is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In fact, it is one of the most common STDs in the US. It is most common among sexually active teens and young adults.

Causes

This infection is caused by bacteria. It is known as Chlamydia trachomatis . It is passed from an infected partner during sex. This can happen during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of chlamydia include:

  • Age: 15 to 25 years old
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Having sex without a condom
  • History of sexually transmitted diseases

Symptoms

It is possible to have this infection and have no symptoms. Many people do not know they are infected. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks of exposure.

Symptoms include:

In Men:

  • White or clear discharge from the penis
  • Painful sensation while urinating

In Women:

  • Increased or abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Strong vaginal odor
  • Vaginal redness or irritation
  • Painful urination
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Pain or bleeding during or after sex
  • Abdominal pain

Pregnant women can also pass chlamydia to their newborns. This can happen during birth. It may cause conjunctivitis or pneumonia in the baby.

Transmission of Infection from Mother to Baby

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Diagnosis

The symptoms can be very similar to another STD, gonorrhea . Your doctor will look for the specific bacteria. A swab test from the discharge of the penis or the cervix may be done. It is the most reliable method of detection for this bacteria. A urine sample may also be used. You may also be tested for others STDs, including HIV .

Treatment

This infection is treated with antibiotics. If you have chlamydia, your doctor may prescribe one of the following:

It is important that you and your partner both be treated before you have sex again. All of the medicine must be taken as directed. If you still have symptoms after the medicine is finished, you may need to be tested again.

Untreated chlamydia can have serious results:

In Men:

  • Testicles— epididymitis , a painful condition of the testicles that may lead to infertility
  • Urethra—inside may become scarred; can make urinating difficult
  • Prostate—inflammation of the prostate gland ( prostatitis )
  • Joints—inflammation of the joints ( Reiter's syndrome )
  • Rectum—inflammation of the rectum (anal intercourse)

Male Genitourinary System

Prostate Gland
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In Women:

If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, follow your doctor's instructions .

Prevention

The safest action is to abstain from sex. If you are sexually active you can prevent chlamydia by taking the following preventive measures:

  • Always use a latex condom during sexual activity.
  • Have routine check-ups for STDs.
  • Have a monogamous relationship. Make sure your partner is monogamous as well.
  • Get checked often for STDs. This is especially important if you are under the age of 25.

Other contraceptive tools may offer some protection. The condom is the most reliable of them all.

If you already have chlamydia, you can prevent its transmission by:

  • Making sure that all sexual partners are tested and treated
  • Refraining from sexual activity until your infection is gone