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Chlamydia, the silent infection

 

Chlamydia can cause vaginal discharge. It may resemble pus or mucus. The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems. If you are a woman, untreated chlamydia can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID often has no symptoms, however, some women may have abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if it doesn’t cause symptoms initially, PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).

Men rarely have health problems linked to chlamydia. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever. Rarely, chlamydia can prevent a man from being able to have children. Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. People who have chlamydia often don’t have outward symptoms in the early stages.

In fact, about 90 percent of women and 70 percent of men with the STIs have no symptoms. But chlamydia can still cause health problems later.

Untreated chlamydia can cause serious complications, so it’s important to get regular screenings and talk with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

 

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Many people with chlamydia don’t have any symptoms. If you do get symptoms, you may not notice them until several weeks after infection. Other people might not have any symptoms for several months.

Signs of chlamydia in women include:

  • increase in vaginal discharge
  • pain or burning when urinating (peeing)
  • pain during sex and/or bleeding after sex
  • pain in the lower stomach – especially when having sex
  • bleeding between periods and/or heavier periods.

 

Signs of chlamydia in men include:

  • white, cloudy, or watery discharge from the penis
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • pain and/or swelling in the testicles.

 

You can also get a chlamydia infection in your anus, eyes, and throat. For both men and women, this can cause pain, discharge or bleeding in the anus, or inflammation (redness) of the eye (called conjunctivitis). Chlamydia in the throat does not usually have any symptoms.

 

Chlamydia causes

Sex without a condom and unprotected oral sex are the main ways a chlamydia infection can be transmitted. But penetration doesn’t have to occur to contract it.

Touching genitals together may transmit the bacteria. It can also be contracted during anal sex.

Chlamydia infection in the eye can occur through oral or genital contact with the eyes, but this isn’t common.

Chlamydia treatment

The good news is that chlamydia is easy to treat. Since it’s bacterial in nature, it’s treated with antibiotics.

Azithromycin is an antibiotic usually prescribed in a single, large dose. Doxycycline is an antibiotic that must be taken twice per day for about one week.

Other antibiotics may also be given. No matter which antibiotic is prescribed, dosage instructions should be followed carefully to make sure the infection clears up fully. This can take up to two weeks, even with the single-dose medications.

During the treatment time, it’s important not to have sex. It’s still possible to transmit and contract chlamydia if exposed again, even if you’ve treated previous infection.

Although chlamydia is curable, it’s still important to stay protected and prevent a recurrence.

Chlamydia in throat

STIs can also be transmitted and contracted during oral sex. Contact with the mouth, lips, or tongue may be enough to transmit chlamydia.

If you contract chlamydia from oral sex, you may experience no symptoms. Like vaginal or anal chlamydial infections, symptoms don’t always appear.

If symptoms are present with chlamydia in the throat, they can include:

 

Other STIs can develop in the throat. Each type of STI in the throat causes unique symptoms and concerns.

Chlamydia in eye

Chlamydia infection is most common in the genital area, but it can occur in less common places like the anus, throat, and even the eyes. It can occur in the eyes through direct or indirect contact with the bacterium.

For example, the infection can go from the genitals to the eye if you touch your eye without washing your hands.

If you have a chlamydia eye infection, also known as chlamydial conjunctivitis, the following symptoms may occur:

If left untreated, chlamydia in the eye can lead to blindness. But it’s easily treated, and early treatment will help cure the infection and prevent complications.

Chlamydia in the eye may be confused with more common eye infections. Learn the differences between chlamydia and other eye infections to know the symptoms.

Chlamydia prevention

Abstinence from sex remains the best means to keep from being infected with an STI. The surest way for a sexually active person to avoid contracting chlamydia is to use a condom during sexual intercourse. To practice safe sex, it’s recommended to:

  • Use protection with each new partner.
  • Get tested regularly for STIs with new partners.
  • Avoid having oral sex, or use protection during oral sex, until a partner has been screened for STIs.

 

Safe sex can protect everyone from infections, unintended pregnancy, and other complications. Safe sex is incredibly successful if done correctly.

Risk group

Anyone who has sex can get chlamydia through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. However, sexually active young people are at a higher risk of getting chlamydia. This is due to behaviors and biological factors common among young people. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are also at risk since chlamydia can spread through oral and anal sex.

Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider. Ask whether you should be tested for chlamydia or other STDs. If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years, you should get a test for chlamydia every year. If you are an older woman with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STD, you should get a test for chlamydia every year. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; as well as pregnant women should also get tested for chlamydia.

Diagnosing chlamydia

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage your reproductive system. Laboratory tests can diagnose chlamydia. Your health care provider may ask you to provide a urine sample or may use (or ask you to use) a cotton swab to get a sample from your vagina to test for chlamydia.

Can chlamydia be cured?

Yes, chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection. When taken properly it will stop the infection and could decrease your chances of having complications later on. You should not share medication for chlamydia with anyone.

Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. You should be tested again about three months after you are treated, even if your sex partner(s) was treated.

When can you have sex again after having treated for Chlamydia?

You should not have sex again until you and your sex partner(s) have completed treatment. If your doctor prescribes a single dose of medication, you should wait seven days after taking the medicine before having sex. If your doctor prescribes a medicine for you to take for seven days, you should wait until you have taken all of the doses before having sex.

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia.htm

https://www.healthline.com/health/std/chlamydia#prevention

https://www.avert.org/sex-stis/sexually-transmitted-infections/chlamydia#:~:text=Chlamydia%20is%20a%20sexually%20transmitted%20infection%20(STI)%20caused%20by%20a,to%20long%2Dterm%20health%20problems.

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