Facts About Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention estimates that more than 3 million cases of chlamydia occur every year. For those wondering what chlamydia looks like, it is unlikely that you will find any chlamydia pictures, as the infection does not cause any external sores to form.

Type of Infection: Bacterial; from the chlamydia trachomatis strain which lives in vaginal fluid and semen

Mode of Transmission: Mainly through vaginal and anal sex; although it is much less common, it can also be passed on via oral sex and hand to eye contact

Symptoms: Chlamydia is known as the “silent” disease since up to 75% of women and 50% of men infected with it display no symptoms. When there are any chlamydia signs and symptoms, it is most likely abnormal vaginal or penile discharge (mucus or pus) and painful urination. Symptoms of chlamydia in women can also include abdominal pain, low-grade fever, pain during intercourse and the need to urinate more often. Chlamydia in men can also make itself known through inflammation of the rectum and swelling or pain in the testicles.

Treatment: Antibiotics are used to cure the infection. The most common ones include doxycycline and azithromycin. Depending on the type you are prescribed, the course of treatment can last from one to seven days. To ensure proper treatment, make sure you finish all your medication and refrain from having sex until your have finished treatment and tests have shown the infection to be gone. It is important to be treated as soon as possible. While the infection can be cleared up, any damage it may have done prior to treatment cannot be undone.

Complications: If left untreated, the infection can move further into the body. In women, chlamydia can affect the cervix, fallopian tubes and urine canal and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy, infertility and chronic pelvic pain. Men who postpone seeking treatment may find themselves with a case of epididymitis, an inflammation of the epididymus in the testicles, which can lead to sterility. The bacteria can also cause irritation and bleeding in the rectum, cause an infection of the eye and lead to an infection of the throat if chlamydia transmission occurred through oral sex.

Consequences in Infants: Chlamydia in women during pregnancy can cause bleeding before delivery as well as premature labor. During childbirth, it can lead to the infant being exposed to the bacteria in the birth canal. This can lead to an eye infection that develops within 10 days of birth. Symptoms of the infection include discharge and swollen eyelids; complications of the infection include blindness. It is also possible for the infant to develop chlamydia pneumonia, which develops three to six weeks after birth. Symptoms of chlamydia pneumonia include congestion and a cough that worsens. Chlamydia may also be linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and low birth weight.

Risk Factors: People who have multiple sex partners, or whose partners have multiple sex partners; who do not use condoms during vaginal, anal or oral sex; have a history of sexually transmitted diseases; and are under the age of 25 are at an increased risk of being infected with chlamydia. Additionally, according to some studies, women who use the birth control pill may have an increased risk of chlamydia. However, their risk of developing PID is lower.

Prevention: The best way to avoid being infected with chlamydia is to abstain from vaginal, anal and oral sex or to be involved in a long-term, monogamous relationship with someone who has been tested free of any STDs. You can reduce your risk by correctly using latex condoms every time you have sex, although this will not completely eliminate the risk of infection. Additionally, all people, especially women, under the age of 25 should go for yearly chlamydia testing. Pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia.

Research: Researchers are currently working on developing a vaccine for chlamydia as well as better diagnostic and treatment measures. There is also some exploration into the possibility of a topical microbicide that is applied to the vagina, which would help prevent transmission of chlamydia.

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