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What Is Chlamydia? Signs and Symptoms

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease which can infect both men and women. It is one of the most common bacterial infection which spreads through sex. Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis. This disease is easily curable if detected on time. However, it would have serious repercussions if left untreated. This disease is most commonly seen among teenagers aged between 14 to 24-year-old. The infection is carried via the semen, pre-cum or vaginal fluids. This disease if not treated on time can not only damage the reproductive system but also impact eyes, throat and lungs.

Is chlamydia contagious?

One can contract this disease by having vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who is already infected with this disease. This can happen even if none of the partner cums. Even if the individual has been treated in the past there are still chances of getting this disease if you had unprotected sex with someone infected with chlamydia. There are rare cases that one can get infected by touching the eyes if one has infected fluids in the hands.

Chlamydia does not spread through casual contact such as shaking hands, sharing food and drinks, hugging, holding hands, sneezing, coughing or sitting on the toilet seat.

Signs and symptoms of chlamydia –

People infected with chlamydia do not experience any signs or symptoms hence it gets difficult for the individual to detect any abnormality. It is also called as the ‘silent infection’ since this disease is often symptomless. In some cases, the symptoms would be so mild that it would go unnoticed or the symptoms would be mistaken for something else. At times a person may experience symptoms however it may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even though it initially does not show signs, but it can damage your reproductive system. Chlamydia can infect the vagina, penis, cervix, urethra, eyes, anus and throat.

Below are few signs mentioned which one would experience if infected:

Symptoms in women:

  • A vaginal discharge which is different than the usual – The discharge caused due to chlamydia is often caused by cervicitis. This is one of the infection of the uterine cervix. The discharge can be either yellow or milky white. At times the discharge would have a strong smell.
  • Pain during urination – The chlamydia microbes can infect the urethra which can lead to urinary tract infection. This then results in pain during urination which is often noted as strong burning sensation. Also the individual would feel desperate urges to urine every time.

If the chlamydia infection is left untreated then it would spread to the cervix to the fallopian tubes resulting in the below symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Sudden fever
  • Burning or itching sensation around the vagina
  • Bleeding between periods for women. Also the pain during periods would be severe than normal times.
  • Pain during intercourse

Symptoms in men:

In the case of men it is a bit difficult to diagnose the symptoms. The symptoms could be infrequent which leads the individual to believe that it is not caused by an infection.

  • A discharge from penis in case of men. This discharge would be pus or watery/milky
  • When urinating the person may experience burning sensation.
  • Itching or burning sensation around the opening of the penis
  • Pain in the lower belly
  • Tender testicles
  • Pain in rectal region and at times it may include bleeding or discharge
  • Infection in the throat and eyes.

If the infection is in the eye, the person would experience itching or eye turning red. Soreness in the throat if the infection is in the throat. However, this case is very rare.

Who can get chlamydia?

Any person having unprotected sex is at the risk of contracting or spreading chlamydia. Without certain test it is not possible to say whether a person has chlamydia or no. Young people in the age bracket of 16 to 24 years are more prone to get contracted. You are at the risk of getting chlamydia if;

  • You don’t use condoms or dental dams while having sex.
  • The individual is already having a sexually transmitted infection
  • You have sex with multiple partners. The more number of partners the higher the chances of getting sexually transmitted disease.

Diagnoses to detect chlamydia –

By observing the symptoms one can only assume that it’s an infection however test done in the lab with doctor’s guidance would confirm the root cause of the symptoms showing up. Testing is very important if you had unprotected sex. Even if there are no signs, you should get tested for any sexually transmitted disease.  People who are sexually active and have sex with multiple partners should always ensure to get tested. The testing for chlamydia is not very difficult, it’s a simple task.  In some cases, the test is done by gently rubbing the genitals with a cotton swab to take the samples from the vagina, cervix, urethra or anus. The samples are then sent to the lab for further testing. At times the doctor would also be able to see the symptoms during the examination.

Apart from this, the doctor can also conduct a urine sample check for the presence of the bacteria. The individual would need to refrain from passing urine for two hours leading to get an accurate result. If one is involved in oral or anal sex, then the doctor would take a swab of your rectum or throat and will send it to the laboratory for testing.

Chlamydia would often get confused for other sexually transmitted disease. But accurate testings can identify the disease.

Treatment for chlamydia –

Chlamydia can be easily cured with proper medications. The doctor would prescribe certain antibiotics to treat the infection. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline or azithromycin can be prescribed by the doctor. Azithromycin can be given as two or four tablets at once and doxycycline can be given as two capsules a day for a week. The doctor can also prescribe different antibiotics such as amoxicillin or erythromycin in case if you have allergy or are pregnant. If the doctor is concerned about the complications then they may prescribe the dose for longer duration.

Both you and your sexual partner should get tested and treated for this disease otherwise there would be back and forth passing of the disease. The medicines should be taken exactly as prescribed by the doctor. Continue taking the medications even if the symptoms have gone, do not stop it in between without the knowledge of the doctor.

Until you and your partners have completed the course of treatment for chlamydia you should avoid having sex. You should wait for at least seven days after the medication to start intercourse. If the doctor had suggested just one dose of medicine, wait for 7 days after you have taken it before having sex. If the doctor suggested medicine for all the 7 days, then don’t have sex until you complete the entire course. Medicines should not be shared with anyone. The doctor would prescribe separate dose of antibiotics for your partner.

Women with severe condition would need to be hospitalised and may require intravenous medicine or pain relievers.

Side effects after the intake of antibiotics is quiet rare and if it happens then its very mild. The common side effects an individual may experience are pain in the stomach, feeling sick, diarrhea and for women it can be vaginal thrush.

Use safe methods of sex since this disease may again strike back if unprotected sex is carried out. Get urself tested in every three to four months to be completely sure that the infection is now cured.

The doctor would advise you to go for a chlamydia test if:

  • You missed to take any of the medication or didn’t take it as prescribed by the doctor.
  • In cases if you are pregnant or breast feeding
  • Before the completion of the course, you and your partner had sex
  • Even after the dose is complete, the symptoms are still showing up.

Risk factors in women -

Non treatment of chlamydia can cause the infection to spread in the uterus and fallopian tubes. This causes pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a bacterial infection of the womb and fallopian tubes. Common symptoms a woman would experience during PID are:

  • Lower back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal bleeding or abnormal discharge from the vagina

A women’s reproductive system can be permanently damaged and it would be difficult for the women to get pregnant in future. It is believed that chlamydia causes damage to the hairs lining the fallopian tubes which helps guide the eggs from the ovaries to the womb. This damage caused leads to scarring due to which the tubes get blocked. This blocking of the fallopian tubes results in permanent infertility.

Untimely treatment of chlamydia can also result in potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. Even if the women is able to conceive the possibility of ectopic pregnancy can be very dangerous for the mother if not diagnosed quickly. If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with chlamydia, then there are chances of the infection being passed to the baby during delivery. The new-born would have pneumonia or get an eye infection. It could also result in premature delivery of the baby.

The neck of the womb or the cervix can also become inflamed. This would result in discomfort, bleeding and irregular vaginal discharge. If cervicitis is left untreated it would result in cervical cysts, backache, vaginal discharge and acute pain in pelvic region.

Also chlamydia can cause blockage and infection in the Bartholin’s glands if left untreated. Bartholin glands are on both sides of the vaginal opening and release fluid during intercourse. This provides lubrication. If due to infection these glands gets blocked it may result in cysts or an abscess. These are usually red and very painful also resulting in sudden fever.

It can also cause nongonococcal urethritis which is an infection of the urethra the tube by which urine is passed. Chlamydia also increases the chances of an individual contracting or spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.        

Hence to avoid these severities it is best to get tested for chlamydia during the first prenatal visit. Timely testing and treatment are the best ways to prevent any untoward incident or further complexities.

Risk factors in men -

Chlamydia in men can spread to the epididymis, this is the tube that carries sperm from the testicles.  It can rarely make the person infertile but it results in chronic joint pain. This is known as epididymitis. Chlamydia and mycoplasma in men can affect the sperm production. An individual who is infected can produce sperm with 80 percent physical abnormalities and 10 percent less mobility compared to their non-infected peers.

Men are also more likely susceptible to conjunctivitis, rheumatological conditions, urethritis and reactive arthritis.

Prevention of chlamydia –

  • The best way to avoid chlamydia is to have protected sex. Use of condoms and dental dams should be made a must. They really help in lowering the chances of contracting not only chlamydia but any other sexually transmitted disease.
  • Getting oneself tested in three to four months would also help in early detection and lower the chances of spreading the infection.
  • Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed to inform your sexual partner about the infection, at least they would get tested and avoid any further spread of the disease.
  • Limit the number of sex partners and do not go back and forth amongst the partners.
  • Sex toys should not be shared with any other person. Cover the sex toys with condom while in use.

Any unusual sign given by the body such as pain in urination, abnormal discharge or sore are all signal to stop having sex and check with the doctor immediately. One must notify all the sex partners once the doctor confirms that you are detected with chlamydia.