Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria

Author’s Bio: Ria Ellendula is an incoming college freshman who is passionate about public health and healthcare policy.   

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia Trachomatis is an STD (sexually-transmitted disease) caused by a bacteria that can infect women and men. If left untreated, it can trigger serious damage to a woman’s reproductive system, interfering with her ability to get pregnant. If contracted during pregnancy, many serious consequences could eventually arise (such as an ectopic pregnancy).  

Is Chlamydia Curable?

As stated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the right treatment, chlamydia is easily curable. The initial treatment usually involves a medication to cure the infection. The medication intends to stop the infection and if taken properly, can decrease chances for complications later in life. As the infection is very serious, treatment is a strict process. Doctors advise that you do not have any sexual contact until the treatment cycle has fully ended. You should also be tested again three months after treatment.

How can you contract chlamydia?

Chlamydia can be contract through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex (Condoms are 98% effective at protecting against most STDs and STIs (sexually-transmitted infection), but they are not 100% effective) If you have sex with people who have chlamydia, you are at severe risk of contracting it yourself through any potential route. That being said, even if someone has had unprotected sex with an infected person, that does not automatically mean they have chlamydia. The estimated transmission rate is variable, and can be influenced by a number of factors. Your susceptibility to chlamydia is increased if you are sexually active before the age of 25, have multiple sexual partners, do not use a condom consistently, or have a family history of sexually transmitted infection. Professor Victoria von Savoszky from Ohio State University asserts that the transmission rate from a one-time unprotected exposure is approximately 25 percent. The male-to-female transmission rate from one sexual instance is about 40 percent, while the female-to-male transmission rate is thought to be 32 percent. The infection can travel through these routes: It is important to note that chlamydia travels through infected sperm, vaginal fluid, or genital tissue contact. However, ejaculation is not necessary for transmission to occur.
  • Unprotected oral sex
    • The disease can spread through oral contact if infected tissues in the mouth reach the penis. It is much more rare for it to be transmitted this way, as the mouth and throat regions are much less susceptible than genital regions.
    • When considering this, mouth-to-vagina, mouth-to-anus, and mouth-to-penis are all potential but unlikely routes for contraction.
  • Unprotected vaginal sex
  • Unprotected anal sex
  • Sharing sex toys: Sharing sex toys is a dangerous method of transmission. If a sex toy comes into contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid and is then used by an uninfected person, the sex toy becomes a mean for infection.
  • Sperm coming into contact with the eye: Unprotected sex can lead to chlamydia in other body parts, including the eye. Eye infection is characterized by redness, pain, and discharge. It can occur if infected sperm/fluid comes into contact with the mucous membrane in the eye. This can cause tissues in the eye to become inflamed and reddened, and sometimes emit discharge.
  • Mother to baby: If pregnant women are infected prior to pregnancy, it increases the risk of the baby developing chlamydia as well.

Chlamydia Symptoms

According to WebMD, about 75% of infections in women and 50% of infections in men have no symptoms. This is why it is essential to understand how to identify Chlamydia immediately. Chlamydia Symptoms in women:
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odor
  • Bleeding between menstruation
  • Painful periods
  • Abdominal pain with fever
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Itching or burning in or around your vagina
  • Pain during urination
Chlamydia symptoms in men:
  • Cloudy discharge emitted from tip of penis
  • Painful urination
  • Burning/itching around opening of penis
  • Swelling around testicular region
Chlamydia in eye:
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • itching/irritating
  • Mucus or discharge
  • Sensitivity to light
Chlamydia in throat:
  • Sore throat
  • Dry throat
  • Fever
  • Coughing

Chlamydia Treatment

Diagnosis: There are a few methods through which individuals can be diagnosed with chlamydia. Usually, screening and diagnosis can take place through a urine test or a swab.  
  • A sample of your urine is taken and will be analyzed in the laboratory specifically for the presence of the infection.
  • The procedure for a swab varies based on your sex. For women, the doctor will take a swab of discharge from your cervix in order to do an antigen/culture test for chlamydia. This may be done during a routine pap smear. For men, the doctor may insert a slim swab into the end of your penis to get a sample from the urethra or they may simply swab the anus.
Treatments: Doctors will prescribe oral antibiotics to treat chlamydia. Either a singular dose of azithromycin or two doses of doxycycline for 7-14 days are the most common treatments. Even with antibiotics, you should abstain from any sexual activities for at least 7 days (or more if recommended) and keep taking medication even if you are feeling better. Preventative measures:   When dealing with STDs and STIs, it is important that everyone be aware of the preventative measures they can take in order to avoid the onset of any infection/disease.  
  • Physical Examination: Physical examinations can be extremely useful for detecting any abnormalities in the body, especially for individuals who fall under a highly susceptible group. As usual, the physical examination will include an update on health history, vital sign check, visual exam, the checking of various body parts and motor functions, and laboratory tests.
  • Pap smear: It is recommended that once women reach the age of 21, they get a pap smear. Following the initial test, pap smears can be conducted every three years if the woman maintains a healthy immune system.
  • Pelvic exam: These can be conducted with or without a pap smear. Pelvic exams aim to examine the vagina, cervix, and vulva for any signs of STIs or other conditions.
  • Testicular exam: Men can receive a testicular exam, in which a doctor will check each testicle for signs of a problem, including lumps, changes in size, and tenderness.
  • Use barrier contraception: Barrier contraception is meant to prevent the transmission of fluids between sexual partners, and examples include male condoms, female condoms, and dental dams.
    • Although condoms aren’t 100% effective in preventing transmission, a 2005 study found that condoms use reduced infection prevalence by 90 percent among “those with known exposure to an infected partner.”
    • Another study comparing the efficacy of the female condom with the male version found that the two held similar risk to semen exposure.
    • Dental dams are a small rubber sheet meant to be used during oral sex. They prevent contact between vaginal fluids/semen and the mouth and vice versa.
  • Other preventative measures include cleaning sex toys between uses, not sharing sexual toys amongst partners, discussing sexual history with your partner, and getting tested regularly

Chlamydia in Men and Women

Chlamydia manifests itself differently in men and women. This includes potential health problems that can result from contracting chlamydia or leaving it unchecked.

Both men and women are at risk for contracting nongonococcal urethritis or NGU (an infection of the urethra)

If left untreated in women, chlamydia can cause:
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Infertility
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • Eye infections, blindness, or pneumonia in newborns who contract it from their mother

If left untreated in men, chlamydia can cause:
  • Infection of the Epididymis
  • Proctitis

Online Doctor Consultations for Chlamydia

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