What Is Chlamydia


Overview

Also known as the "silent disease", Chlamydia is one of the common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

It is caused by the bacterium –“Chlamydia trochomatis”, which is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. It is transmitted not only from vaginal intercourse but anal and oral sex as well. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal birth.

Any sexually active person can be infected with this common STD. The more sexual partners a woman had the higher the risk of infection. Sexually active teenage girls and young women have a particularly higher risk of being infected than their older counterparts.

Probably, this is due to the fact that the cervix (the opening to the uterus) of these young adults are not fully mature, hence making them more susceptible to this sexual infection.

Chlamydia Symptoms

Usually the symptoms are mild. A majority of people do not have symptoms at all. Hence, it is called the “silent disease”.

This absence of symptoms can be very dangerous as it can cause irreversible damage to a woman’s reproductive organs, even infertility as the disease progress silently before a woman ever recognizes a problem.

If symptoms do occur, it shows between one to three weeks after exposure. In women, the bacterium first attacks the cervix and the urethra (urine canal) causing abnormal vaginal discharge and a burning sensation during urination.

The bacteria can also grow in the rectum, throat and mouth of men and women who engaged in anal and oral sex with an infected partner.

Infection in the rectum is characterized by rectal pain, discharge and bleeding.

Complications

In 10 to 15 percent of women, untreated symptoms of this "silent disease" can lead to permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissues.

This damage can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

Common symptoms of PID are lower abdominal pain, lower back pain, fever, nausea, painful intercourse, smelly vaginal discharge and bleeding between menstrual cycles.

In pregnant women, the infection can cause premature delivery and the new-born of an infected mother can develop pneumonia and conjunctivitis. Therefore, all pregnant women should go for a screening test.  

Prevention

It is advisable for all sexually active women up to age 25 to go for yearly screenings of this infection.

Older women with new sexual partners or multiple partners should also go for annual screenings too.

The best prevention is to have a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.

Proper usage of condoms not only can help to avoid this infection but other sexually transmitted infections as well.

Treatment

This "silent disease" can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. Your doctor might use a single dose of azithromycin or a week of dexycycline.

During treatment it is advisable to abstain from sexual intercourse for 7 days to prevent spreading the infection to your partner.

You should also inform your partner(s) as they will need to be treated as well. It is pointless if you receive treatment and your partner doesn't, as he will re-transmit the infection to you again.

You cannot develop immunity against chlamydia, so if you continue to be sexually active with different partners, you could be at risk of contracting the infection again.

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