What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), a disease you can get from having unprotected sex. It affects both men and women who contact during sexual intercourse. It is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis.
This is one of the most common STIs in women, especially young women ages 15-24. Often there are no symptoms. Antibiotics can treat chlamydia. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause serious health problems in women, such as miscarriage. This is a particularly serious problem for women because it can damage the female reproductive organs.
Causes of chlamydia
Chlamydia is spread during sexual intercourse and is very contagious. It can spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Ejaculation does not spread chlamydia.
Symptoms of chlamydia
In the early stages of the disease, there are often no symptoms. Most people don’t know they have it. Symptoms arrive1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the bacteria. It can include:
- Painful urination (a burning sensation)
- Lower abdominal pain
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge in women
- Irregular periods in women
- Discharge from the penis in men
- Pain in the testicles in men
- Rectal pain, discharge, and bleeding for men and women who fight in anal sexual activity
- Reactive arthritis in both men and women (pain and inflammation of the joints that develops from an infection)
If you think you may have chlamydia, you and your sexual partners should see a doctor as soon as possible. Chlamydia without any symptoms can still lead to health problems in the future (including the inability to conceive). The only way to know if you or your partner have chlamydia is to get tested.
Diagnosis of chlamydia
To diagnose chlamydia, a doctor can perform a test to look for physical symptoms such as discharge. They also take a urine sample or a swab sample from the penis, cervix, urethra, throat, or rectum.
- Urine test: This is very common. Urines (Pee) in a cup. Your urine will be tested for chlamydia.
- Swab test: Your doctor will use a cotton swab to take a liquid sample from the infected area (vagina, cervix, rectum, or throat). The fluid is then tested for this disease.
Since it can cause serious problems, but may not cause symptoms, it is a good idea to get tested once a year if you are sexually active and in your 20s or younger. Your doctor, local health departments, and sexual health centres usually perform the tests.
Treatment for chlamydia
If you have chlamydia, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to treat this bacterial infection. It is important to take all medications as prescribed. Otherwise, the medicine may not work. Both sexual partners need treatment to keep the infection from coming and going.
As soon as you find out that you have a bacterial infection, tell your sexual partner. Experts recommend that you tell everyone you have had sex with in the past 2 months. If you have not had sex in the last 2 months, contact the person you last had sex with. Your doctor may also recommend treating your partner (s) to prevent the disease from spreading again.
Women with a serious infection, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, may need more time to receive antibiotics or hospitalization to receive antibiotics through a vein. Some serious pelvic infections may require surgery in addition to antibiotic therapy. Knowing that you have an STI can make you feel bad about yourself or sex. Counselling or a support team can help you feel better.
The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to avoid having sex with other people. There are ways to reduce risk:
- Using condoms during every sexual encounter
- Limiting the number of sex partners
- Undergoing regular screenings
- Don’t use drugs or alcohol
- Stay with one partner
Untreated chlamydia infections can cause serious damage to the reproductive organs along with other health problems.
- This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in up to 40 per cent of women without any symptoms. PID due to permanent scarring of the fallopian tubes can cause chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). Women with this disease are five times more likely to become infected with HIV if exposed.
- Infection during pregnancy can lead to preterm labour and delivery. An infected mother can also pass the infection to her baby as a result of pneumonia (lung infection) or conjunctivitis (eye infection) during vaginal delivery.
- The bacterial problems and infection can spread to the rectum, causing inflammation, discharge, and pain.
- In rare cases, the infection spreads to the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm from the testicles), causing fever, scrotal pain, inflammation, and infertility in men.
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of dermatology