What is it?
Chlamydia, which is caused by the microorganism
is the most common curable sexually transmitted
disease (STD) in the United States. Chlamydia is a major cause of
non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, bacterial
pelvic inflammatory disease(PID)
Chlamydia infections may have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at
all, so they are often overlooked. However, left untreated these
infections can lead to serious damage to the reproductive organs,
particularly in women.
What causes it?
Chlamydia infections are usually transmitted during contact with
the genital, mouth, or rectal area of an infected person. Chlamydia
is not transmitted through casual contact (toilet seats, hot tubs,
saunas, or swimming pools). A person can be infected, not have
symptoms, and transmit chlamydia without knowing it.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia infection?
Up to 80 percent of women and at least 25 percent of men with
uncomplicated chlamydia infection have no symptoms or signs of
infection. If symptoms do occur, they typically appear within one
week to a month after exposure to an infected person and may
include the following:
- pain or burning during urination
- frequent urination
- pain and swelling in the testicles
- low-grade fever
- burning and itching around the opening of the penis
- watery or milky discharge from the penis
- irregular vaginal bleeding
- burning with urination
- itching and burning in the genital area
- vaginal discharge
- lower abdominal pain often accompanied by nausea and fever
When should I see my health care provider?
Early diagnosis and treatment of chlamydia infections are
critical. See your health care provider immediately if you
experience any of the symptoms listed above or if you suspect that
you have another STD. You should also have a screening test for
chlamydia at the start of a new relationship or if you are
currently sexually active and your partner has been diagnosed and
treated for chlamydia.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
A diagnosis of chlamydia is made with one of several types of
laboratory tests. Usually secretions are obtained from the
potentially infected site (cervix, urethra, or rectum) and sent to
a laboratory where the organism is identified.
How is chlamydia
Chlamydial infections are one of the most treatable STDs,
especially when detected early. The cure rate is greater than 95%.
The infection is usually treated with antibiotics. It is important
to be treated, as untreated chlamydia can have long term negative
consequences. It is also important to take the full course of
antibiotics, even if symptoms disappear, and to return for a
follow-up examination. All exposed sexual partners should be
referred for evaluation and treatment.
Immunity does not develop after being infected; therefore, an
individual can be infected with chlamydia more than once. To
prevent re-infection, infected people should refrain from
genital-genital contact and intercourse until they and their
partner(s) have completed treatment. While condoms provide some
protection, their possibility of breaking suggests that it is best
to refrain from intercourse until treatment is completed.
What are the risks if chlamydia is not treated?
Chlamydia infections can create serious health problems if left
untreated. In women a chlamydial infection may begin at the cervix
and spread upward to the uterus, the fallopian tubes, or to the
ovaries. This may result in
pelvic inflammatory disease
, a serious infection which can scar and block fallopian
. In men it is the leading cause of
which on occasion causes
an inflammation of the epididymis (located adjacent to the
testicle). Epididymitis can lead to
A baby who is exposed to
in the birth
canal during delivery may develop
. Symptoms of conjunctivitis, which
include discharge and swollen eyelids, usually develop within the
first 10 days of life. Symptoms of pneumonia, including a
progressively worsening cough and congestion, most often develop
within three to six weeks of birth. Both conditions can be treated
successfully with antibiotics. Because of these risks to the
newborn, many doctors recommend routine testing of all pregnant
women for chlamydial infection.
(inflammation of the lining of
the eye). The bacteria also have been found in the throat as a
result of oral sexual contact with an infected partner. In tropical
climates, a particular strain of
STD called lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), which is characterized
by prominent swelling and inflammation of the lymph nodes in the
groin. Complications may follow if LGV is not treated; this
infection is very rare in the United States.
How can it be prevented?
Because chlamydial infection often occurs without symptoms,
people who are infected may unknowingly infect their sex partners.
Many doctors recommend that all persons who have more than one sex
partner, especially women under 25 years of age, be tested for
chlamydial infection regularly, even in the absence of symptoms.
Using condoms or diaphragms during sexual intercourse may help
reduce the transmission of chlamydia.
The surest way to avoid getting chlamydia and other sexually
transmitted diseases is by abstaining from sex or being in a
mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Having
multiple partners increases your risk of getting chlamydia and
other sexually transmitted diseases.