Chlamydia is one of the most common and frequently reported sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in men and women. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. While it can affect people of all ages, it is estimated that 70% of cases occur in people under 25, making it prevalent among young adults and adolescents.
Chlamydia is highly contagious and can transmit through unprotected sexual intercourse, oral sex, and even through contact with infected genital secretions. For Chlamydia infection, penetration isn't always necessary; even touching genitals together may transmit the bacteria. Anal sex may also transmit the bacteria.
Chlamydia can also spread through sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia, so anyone using intravenous drugs should be tested regularly to ensure they are not transmitting the disease. In some cases, Chlamydia can be spread from mother to baby during delivery. A chlamydia infection can also occur in the eye via oral or genital contact with the eyes, but this isn't common.
Chlamydia is often called a "silent infection," as most people with chlamydia infection don't experience any symptoms. However, it may present certain symptoms in some people. Such as-
• Feeling a burning sensation during urinating
• Abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina
Furthermore, chlamydia symptoms may differ slightly for men and women.
Chlamydia symptoms in men
Chlamydia may produce the following symptoms in men-
• Burning sensation during urination
• Yellow or green discharge from the penis
• Pain in the lower abdomen or the testicles
However, chlamydia infection in the anus may cause symptoms like-
• Discharge or bleeding from the anal region
Having oral sex with a person with the infection boosts the risk of getting Chlamydia in the throat. Its symptoms may include sore throat, cough, or fever.
Chlamydia symptoms in women
Chlamydia may produce the following symptoms in women-
• painful sexual intercourse
• vaginal discharge
• burning sensation during urination
• pain in the lower abdomen
• inflammation of the cervix
• bleeding/ spotting between periods
Sometimes, the infection can spread to the fallopian tubes, which may cause a medical emergency called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), whose symptoms are:
• severe pelvic pain
• abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods
Chlamydia infection may also occur in the rectum, which may cause symptoms like rectal pain, discharge, and bleeding. The signs of throat infection remain the same as in men.
Some of the risk factors for infection are-
• Refraining from barrier methods like condoms consistently with new sexual partners
• Having a sexual partner who has multiple sex companions
• containing a history of Chlamydia or other STIs
People at increased risk of chlamydia infection are-
• under 25 years of age
• Pregnant women
• Those who have a new sexual partner.
• Those who have multiple partners.
• Those who had previous chlamydia infections.
The CDC recommends that all sexually active women aged 25 and younger get screened for Chlamydia every year, along with women aged 25 and older with a risk for Chlamydia.
Diagnosis and Treatment
While experiencing symptoms, the healthcare professional may perform a physical exam to observe any discharge, sores, or unusual spots indicating a possible infection. The most effective diagnostic test for Chlamydia is a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), which uses a swab test in the vagina for women and a urine test in men. Anus or throat infection also demands a swab test. However, the Results of these tests may take several days.
Chlamydia is easy to treat and curable infection using antibiotics. The treatment can take up to 2 weeks, even with single-dose medications. However, during treatment time, it's important not to have sex.
If you think you may have been exposed to Chlamydia or are experiencing any of the symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat Chlamydia, but it is also necessary to inform any sexual partners so that they can be tested and treated.
Complications of Chlamydia
If left untreated, Chlamydia can cause serious health problems for both men and women. In men, Chlamydia can lead to epididymitis, a painful inflammation of the testicles that can cause infertility. In women, Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, leading to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.
Untreated Chlamydia can spread to the bloodstream and increases the risk of getting reactive arthritis, which causes joints to swell and feel painful and increases the chances of contracting HIV.
There are no proven ways to prevent Chlamydia; however few ways may reduce its risk:
• Use barrier methods. Use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier methods each time you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
• Get tested. Get regularly screened for STIs to ensure prompt treatment if needed.
• Communicate with your partners. Since having multiple sexual partners increase the risk of Chlamydia and other STIs, openly discussing STI prevention and using barrier methods every time while having sex may reduce the RISK.
• Don't share sex toys; if not possible, wash them thoroughly between each use and cover them with a condom.
What doesn't cause Chlamydia?
Not all circumstances involving an exchange of body fluids or intimacy cause Chlamydia, like-
• Sharing food or drinks
• Hugging or holding hands
• Using a toilet after another person
• Inhaling on other's coughs or sneezes
The bottom line
Chlamydia is a very common STD but is also one of the most treatable. With early diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to prevent serious health complications resulting from long-term infection. Therefore, it is crucial to get tested regularly and practice safe sex to reduce your risk of contracting Chlamydia.
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