What you need to know about chlamydia symptoms and treatment
A very common sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia can be one of the hardest infections to detect. It can also endanger reproductive health, resulting in infertility and painful, irreversible conditions. Learn how to avoid, detect and treat a chlamydia infection to protect yourself and your partner.
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacterial infection that often goes unnoticed, but can lead to more serious conditions if left untreated. It is the most frequently reported bacterial STD in America, and about 5 percent of the American population is estimated to be infected. Chlamydia tends to occur most often in young adults and people living in urban areas, and though it is most often transmitted through sexual contact, it can be passed from mother to child during childbirth.
Chlamydia symptoms are typically very mild or completely absent in both women in men, but may include discharge or pain when urinating. Men might also experience symptoms similar to gonorrhea such as burning and itching around the opening of the penis, but complications are relatively rare. On the other hand, chlamydia infection in women is particularly dangerous, as it usually shows no symptoms, and the infection can quickly spread from the cervix to the fallopian tubes and result in irreversible reproductive health problems.
The relationship between chlamydia and infertility cannot be disputed: the risk of female infertility increases the longer the disease goes undetected. The infection begins on the cervix and can move up through the reproductive organs where it can scar or block the fallopian tubes, effectively preventing fertilization. Pelvic inflammatory disease may also result from the spread of chlamydia, which can cause chronic pain. When the infection advances to this stage, a woman may experience fever, back or abdominal pain or bleeding between menstrual periods.
A physical examination will be the first step in the chlamydia screening process, and the doctor may order blood, urine or discharge sample tests to identify any infection. Chlamydia testing may also be followed by other STD testing, as many chlamydia patients have other venereal infections that may have gone unnoticed.
If Chlamydia is detected early, it can be cured quickly and easily, leaving no risk of reproductive complications or long-term damage. Like other bacterial infections, chlamydia treatment consists of antibiotics; sexual contact should be avoided during treatment, and women should be re-tested three to four months after treatment to ensure they have not contracted the infection again from an untreated sexual partner.
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