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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted
disease (STD) that is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
Because approximately 75% of women and 50% of men have no symptoms, most
people infected with Chlamydia are not aware of their infections and
therefore may not seek health care.
What is chlamydia?
How common is chlamydia?
How do people get chlamydia?
What are the symptoms
What complications can result from untreated chlamydia?
How does chlamydia affect a pregnant woman and her baby?
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
What is the treatment
How can chlamydia be
Where can I buy home test kits for contributing factors of this
Chlamydia is a common sexually
transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia
trachomatis, which can damage a woman's reproductive organs. Even though
symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications
that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur
"silently" before a woman ever recognizes a problem. Chlamydia also can
cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.
common is chlamydia? (top)
Chlamydia is the most frequently reported
bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. In 2002,
834,555 chlamydial infections were reported to CDC from 50 states and
the District of Columbia. Under-reporting is substantial because most
people with chlamydia are not aware of their infections and do not seek
testing. Also, testing is not often done if patients are treated for
their symptoms. An estimated 2.8 million Americans are infected with
chlamydia each year. Women are frequently re-infected if their sex
partners are not treated.
How do people get chlamydia? (top)
Chlamydia can be transmitted during
vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Chlamydia can also be passed from an
infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth.
Any sexually active person can be
infected with chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the
greater the risk of infection. Because the cervix (opening to the
uterus) of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured, they are
at particularly high risk for infection if sexually active. Since
chlamydia can be transmitted by oral or anal sex, men who have sex with
men are also at risk for chlamydial infection.
What are the symptoms of
Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease
because about three quarters of infected women and about half of
infected men have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear
within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure.
In women, the bacteria initially infect
the cervix and the urethra (urine canal). Women who have symptoms might
have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when
urinating. When the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian
tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), some women
still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low
back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between
menstrual periods. Chlamydial infection of the cervix can spread to the
Men with signs or symptoms might have a
discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. Men
might also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis.
Pain and swelling in the testicles are uncommon.
Men or women who have receptive anal
intercourse may acquire chlamydial infection in the rectum, which can
cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding. Chlamydia can also be found
in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected
complications can result from untreated chlamydia? (top)
If untreated, chlamydial infections can
progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both
short-term and long-term consequences. Like the disease itself, the
damage that chlamydia causes is often "silent."
In women, untreated infection can spread
into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease
(PID). This happens in up to 40 percent of women with untreated
chlamydia. PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes,
uterus, and surrounding tissues. The damage can lead to chronic pelvic
pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy
outside the uterus). Women infected with chlamydia are up to five times
more likely to become infected with HIV, if exposed.
To help prevent the serious consequences
of chlamydia, screening at least annually for chlamydia is recommended
for all sexually active women age 25 years and younger. An annual
screening test also is recommended for older women with risk factors for
chlamydia (a new sex partner or multiple sex partners). All pregnant
women should have a screening test for chlamydia.
Complications among men are rare.
Infection sometimes spreads to the epididymis (a tube that carries sperm
from the testis), causing pain, fever, and, rarely, sterility.
Rarely, genital chlamydial infection can
cause arthritis that can be accompanied by skin lesions and inflammation
of the eye and urethra (Reiter's syndrome).
does chlamydia affect a pregnant woman and her baby? (top)
In pregnant women, there is some evidence
that untreated chlamydial infections can lead to premature delivery.
Babies who are born to infected mothers can get chlamydial infections in
their eyes and respiratory tracts. Chlamydia is a leading cause of early
infant pneumonia and conjunctivitis (pink eye) in newborns.
How is chlamydia diagnosed? (top)
There are laboratory tests to diagnose
chlamydia. Some can be performed on urine, other tests require that a
specimen be collected from a site such as the penis or cervix.
What is the treatment for
Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured
with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline
(twice daily) are the most commonly used treatments. HIV-positive
persons with chlamydia should receive the same treatment as those who
are HIV negative.
All sex partners should be evaluated,
tested, and treated. Persons with chlamydia should abstain from sexual
intercourse until they and their sex partners have completed treatment,
otherwise re-infection is possible.
Women whose sex partners have not been
appropriately treated are at high risk for re-infection. Having multiple
infections increases a woman's risk of serious reproductive health
complications, including infertility. Retesting should be considered for
women, especially adolescents, three to four months after treatment.
This is especially true if a woman does not know if her sex partner
How can chlamydia be prevented? (top)
The surest way to avoid transmission of
sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual contact, or to
be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who
has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Latex male condoms, when used
consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of
Chlamydia screening is recommended
annually for all sexually active women 25 years of age and younger. An
annual screening test also is recommended for older women with risk
factors for chlamydia (a new sex partner or multiple sex partners). All
pregnant women should have a screening test for chlamydia.
Any genital symptoms such as discharge or
burning during urination or unusual sore or rash should be a signal to
stop having sex and to consult a health care provider immediately. If a
person has been treated for chlamydia (or any other STD), he or she
should notify all recent sex partners so they can see a health care
provider and be treated. This will reduce the risk that the sex partners
will develop serious complications from chlamydia and will also reduce
the person's risk of becoming re-infected. The person and all of his or
her sex partners must avoid sex until they have completed their
treatment for chlamydia.
Where can I buy home test kits for contributing factors of this
Click here to buy home test kits.