Sex Education for the Real World…

 


Chlamydia; Hard To Spell, Even Harder to Talk About…

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Posted November 7, 2012 by Kimani in Infection Section

Chlamydia; Hard To Spell, Even Harder to Talk About…

 

It’s one of the diseases you’ve only read about in schoolbooks, but it is very real. Chlamydia infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Sexually active individuals and individuals with multiple partners are at highest risk. Get to know the symptoms, then how to prevent transmission.

What is Chlamydia?

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.

 

Chlamydia

 How common is It?

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. In fact, in 2010 1,307,893 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 infections occur annually in the U.S. Women are frequently re-infected if their sex partners are not treated.

How Do People Get It?

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 and is probably more susceptible to infection, 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.

 

Chlamydia

Photo Credit

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, it is not easy to tell if you are infected with chlamydia since symptoms are not always apparent. But when they do occur, they are usually noticeable within one to three weeks of contact and can include the following:

Symptoms in women

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odor
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful periods
  • Abdominal pain with fever
  • Pain when having sex
  • Itching or burning in or around the vagina
  • Pain when urinating

Symptoms in men

  • Small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Burning and itching around the opening of the penis
  • Pain and swelling around the testicles

Chlamydia

What Complications Can Result From Untreated Chlamydia?

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.”

Chlamydia

In women, untreated infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID happens in about 10 to 15 percent of women with untreated chlamydia. Furthermore, this infection can also cause fallopian tube infection without any symptoms. PID and “silent” infection in the upper genital tract 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). It may also increase the chances of becoming infected with HIV, if exposed.

To help prevent the serious consequences, 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 (the 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).

 

Finally, if you are experiencing symptoms of Chlamydia or have had unprotected sex and are unsure of your status – see a licensed physician immediately. 

 Sources: 

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

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002321/

http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/chlamydia

 




About the Author

Kimani

A NY transplant in Florida, Kimani has taken on the task of educating the world on sexual health and education. The Mount Vernon native has seen AIDS and HIV spread through her community like wildfire, and hopes to cease the transmission of these and other diseases one person at a time. If you know better, you're inclined to do better.

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