“Chlamydia” – short for chlamydia trachomatis– is the most common of the sexually-transmitted bacterial pelvic infection in women. It is referred to as the “Silent Epidemic” because it often produces no symptoms—especially in women. About 4 million cases of Chlamydia occur in the U.S. each year and about 1 million are actually reported each year to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In various populations of individuals between the ages of 18 and 26 approximately 4% will test positive for chlamydia. In African American women that number may be as high as 14%. Chlamydia can produce a serious infection and is responsible for a quarter to half-a-million cases of PID each year in the U.S. and may render women exposed to HIV five-times more likely to become infected.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia is often a silent disease—a fact that enables these truculent little bacteria to be widely spread. About 75% of women infected have no symptoms. Almost half of the men infected have no symptoms (such as a penile discharge). When symptoms do occur they generally manifest themselves 1-3 weeks following exposure.
In women the bacteria often infects the cervix and the urethra (the canal from which urine is passed).
The urethral infection may manifest itself with a burning sensation on urination.
The cervical infection may produce the following:
- No symptoms
- A white or yellowish discharge that looks unfamiliar
- Lower abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Nausea, vomiting
- Pain with intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding—bleeding between normal menses.
- With anal intercourse chlamydia can also infect the rectum causing rectal bleeding, discharge or pain.
- Oral genital sex can even produce a pharyngitis (sore throat).
What are the risk factors for getting this infection?
The risk factors are the same as for most STDs and include:
- Adolescents and young adults
- Multiple sex partners or a partner with many exposures
- Inconsistent use of condoms
- History of prior STDs
- Lower socioeconomic class
How can I be tested for chlamydia?
There are laboratory tests to diagnose chlamydia. Most often we simply obtain a specimen from the cervix. In other instances tests can be performed on urine.
Can Chlamydia be prevented?
The best way to avoid infection is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who’s been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Other recommendations include
- Use latex condoms correctly and consistently if the above does not apply to you
- Have chlamydia screening annually if you are under 25 years of age and sexually active
- If you have symptoms that include a vaginal discharge, burning during urination or any sore or rash please get evaluated by a medical professional.
- Notify your recent partners of any STD so that they can be treated as well.
- Do not resume sex until you and your partner have been re-tested and your tests are negative.
Can chlamydia be cured?
Yes–if it is caught in time! If you have an uncomplicated case of chlamydia (no evidence of pelvic inflammatory disease) a simple course of oral antibiotics should cure you. You will be re-tested to be certain that the infection has cleared. It will be very important, however, that you institute life style changes so that you don’t become re-infected. Antibiotic therapy consists of: one of the following:
- Azithromycin 1 gram orally as a single dose
- Doxycycline 100 mg twice a day for 7 days
- Erythromycin 500 mg four times a day for 7 days
Chlamydia as a public health issue NYS law requires that all positive chlamydia cultures be reported to the local Department of Health. Your sexual contacts will be notified of the need for testing. You should not resume intercourse with your partner until you’ve both been tested and re-cultured to be certain that you are cured of this infection.
Where can I get more information?
STD information and referrals to STD Clinics
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