What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.
How do you get chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be contacted during vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has the infection. A woman can also pass chlamydia to her baby during childbirth. You can be re-infected with the disease even after treatment, if you still have unprotected sex with someone who has it. Younger women who have unprotected intercourse with multiple partners are more vulnerable to chlamydia infection.
Symptoms of Chlamydia
Chlamydia doesn’t typically cause any symptoms. So most people may not know they have it. People with chlamydia who have exhibited no symptoms can still pass the disease to others. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner.
Symptoms in women include;
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, with offensive odour
- A burning sensation when passing out urine
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain
- Nausea or fever.
Symptoms in men include;
- Discharge from penis
- A burning feeling when urinating
- Burning or itching around the opening of your penis
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles
If the chlamydia infects the rectum (in men or women), it can cause rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding.
Diagnosis for Chlamydia
There are lab tests to diagnose chlamydia, your doctor may ask for your urine sample. A cotton swab is usually used for women to get a sample from the vagina to test for chlamydia. Pregnant women should get a chlamydia test when they go to their first prenatal visit.
People at higher risk of getting infected with chlamydia are;
- Sexually active women under 25 years
- Older women who have new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted disease
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
Complications of Chlamydia
An untreated infection in women can spread to the fallopian tubes and uterus leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. Such women may experience infertility, long-term pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have had chlamydia infections more than once are at higher risk of serious reproductive health complications.
Men rarely have health problems from chlamydia. Sometimes it can infect the tube that carries sperm, called the epididymis. This can cause pain, fever, and in rare cases, infertility.
Both men and women can develop reactive arthritis because of a chlamydia infection. Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens as a “reaction” to an infection in the body.
Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. It may also cause premature births.
Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV/AIDS.
Treatments for Chlamydia
Antibiotics medication can cure the chlamydia infection, however, it cannot undo any permanent damage the disease has caused. You may get a one-time dose of the antibiotics, or you may need to take medicine every day for 7 days.
Avoid unprotected sex until the infection clears up, so as not to spread the disease to your partner. If you got a one-time dose of antibiotics, you should wait 7 days after taking the medicine to have sex again. If you have to take medicine every day for 7 days, you should not have sex again until you have finished taking all of the doses of your medicine.
It is not unusual to get re-infected with chlamydia, so you should get tested again about three months after treatment.
Prevention of Chlamydia
The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to avoid unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Use of condoms reduces the chances of getting chlamydia, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading the infection.