Chlamydia (pronounced: kluh-mid-ee-uh) is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States. About 1.4 million cases are reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) annually, though they estimate about 2.8 million infections occur every year. The most prevalent group to have chlamydia is young women; the CDC suggests 1 in 15 sexually active women between 14 and 19 years old is infected. These high rates are probably no coincidence because everyone that gets an STD test is tested for it. But even with high rates of testing, an estimated half of the infections go undiagnosed and untreated.
This is because chlamydia, called the “silent infection,” often has no symptoms. So many are unaware they are infected and do not get tested. When symptoms do exist, they may not appear until a few weeks after exposure. Sometimes an infected woman will feel abdominal pain, have unusual vaginal discharge (women normally have a small amount of discharge that is white or clear), or a burning sensation when urinating. Don’t let the apparent quietness of chlamydia fool you! Even without symptoms, if chlamydia is left unchecked it can cause irreversible damage to a woman’s reproductive organs, which is why it’s standard routine for women to get tested for it when they’re getting a pap smear or STD test. Damage occurs when the infection, which first infects the cervix or the urethra, moves upward into the uterus caused Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can cause infertility; it may not cause any symptoms at first but eventually may become very painful. If women get infected while pregnant, they can have early delivery, and if untreated they may spread the infection to the baby, who can then get an eye infection or pneumonia. New research has also come out suggesting that chlamydia is able to live in the gut and cause reinfection at a later time, which makes regular STD testing that much more important.
It’s not just women that can be infected. Men can also get chlamydia. Both men and women can get infected in the eyes, urethra, and in the rectum via anal sex. In these cases people may have rectal pain, discharge, rectal bleeding (called proctitis), or there may be no symptoms. Infected men can also have discharge from their penis, swollen testes, or a burning sensation while urinating. Infertility caused by chlamydia is less common in men, though it can happen.
Thankfully, chlamydia is easily curable typically with a 7 day antibiotic treatment (even for babies that got infected from infected mothers upon delivery). The key is catching it early enough that it has not caused permanent damage – usually within a few months of having been infected. If you have gotten diagnosed with chlamydia, it is important that your partner get treated as well so you do not get re-infected. Regardless, you should get re-tested in 3 to 6 months after treatment. Condoms can help protect against spreading chlamydia, but like most STDs, are not a guarantee, because skin-to-skin contact it the only thing required to spread it.
***This is a blog and the information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, nor is it meant to take the place of your personal physician’s advice.***