• Chlamydia

    Definition

    Chlamydia is a bacterial infection. It is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is one of the most common STIs in the United States. Chlamydia is most common among sexually active teens and young adults.

    Causes

    The infection is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is passed from an infected partner during sex. This can happen during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of chlamydia include:
    • Being sexually active
    • Age: 15-25 years
    • Multiple sexual partners
    • Having sex without a condom
    • History of sexually transmitted infections

    Symptoms

    It is common to have this infection but have no symptoms. Many people do not know they are infected. If symptoms do occur, they might appear within 1-3 weeks of exposure. The symptoms can be very similar to another STI: gonorrhea.
    Symptoms of a genital infection include:

    In Men:

    • White or clear discharge from the penis
    • Painful sensation while urinating

    In Women:

    • Increased or abnormal vaginal discharge
    • Painful urination
    • Unusual vaginal bleeding
    • Pain or bleeding during or after sex
    • Abdominal pain
    Pregnant women can pass chlamydia to their newborns. This can happen during birth. It may cause eye problems like conjunctivitis or pneumonia in the baby. Identification and treatment during pregnancy can greatly reduce risks for the baby.

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will look for the specific bacteria. A swab test may be done with the discharge of the penis or the cervix. A urine sample may also be collected. Tests can be done to check for a chlamydia infection in the throat or anus, if relevant.
    You may also be tested for other STIs. These normally include gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV.

    Treatment

    This infection is treated with antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics are:
    • Azithromycin, for example, Zithromax or Zmax
    • Doxycycline, for example, Vibramycin
    To ensure successful treatment:
    • It is important that you and your partner both be treated. Wait at least seven days before you have sex again.
    • Take all of the medicine as directed.
    • If you still have symptoms after the medicine is finished, or if you are pregnant, you may need to be tested again.
    • You may be tested again three months after treatment to make sure you have not been reinfected.
    Untreated chlamydia genital infections can cause serious problems:

    In Men:

    Untreated infections may cause problems with:
    • Testicles—Swelling of the testicles that could lead to infertility
    • Urethra—The tube that carries urine out of the body can become scarred, making it difficult to urinate
    • Prostate—Swelling of the prostate gland
    • Joints and eyes—Joint pain is just one symptom in a collection of conditions called Reiter's syndrome, which also includes urethritis, arthritis, and conjunctivitis (pink eye)
    Male Genitourinary System
    Prostate Gland
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    In Women:

    Untreated infections may cause:
    If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, follow your doctor's instructions.
    If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, follow your doctor's instructions.

    Prevention

    The safest option is to avoid sex. If you are sexually active, you can help prevent chlamydia with the following habits:
    • Always use a latex condom during sexual activity. Other contraceptive tools may offer some protection. But, condoms are the most reliable of them all.
    • Have routine check-ups for STIs if you are under the age of 25.
    • Have check-ups often if you have other risk factors for getting STIs.
    • Have a monogamous relationship. Monogamous means only one sexual partner.
    If you already have chlamydia, prevent spreading the infection with the following steps:
    • Make sure that all sexual partners are tested and treated.
    • Refrain from sexual activity until at least seven days after your infection is treated.

    RESOURCES

    Planned Parenthood http://www.plannedparenthood.org

    Sexually Transmitted DiseasesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/std

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Sex Information and Education Council of Canada http://www.sieccan.org

    References

    Blas MM, Canchihuaman FA, et al. Pregnancy outcomes in women infected with Chlamydia trachomatis: a population-based cohort study in Washington State. Sex Transm Infect. 2007;83(4):314-318.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

    Chlamydia fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/default.htm. Updated Feburaray 8, 2012. Accessed October 6, 2012.

    Chlamydia genital infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 7, 2012. Accessed October 6, 2012.

    Chlamydia. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/chlamydia/Pages/default.aspx. Updated August 20, 2010. Accessed October 6, 2012.

    Chlamydia. National Women's Health Organization website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/chlamydia.cfm. Updated July 8, 2011. Accessed October 6, 2012.

    Drugs for sexually transmitted infections. The Medical Letter. 2004;2:67.

    Gottlieb SL, Martin DH, et al. Summary: The natural history and immunobiology of Chlamydia trachomatis genital infection and implications for Chlamydia control. J Infect Dis. 2010;201:Suppl 2:S190-204.

    Kent CK, Chaw JK, et al. Prevalence of rectal, urethral, and pharyngeal chlamydia and gonorrhea detected in 2 clinical settings among men who have sex with men: San Francisco, California, 2003. Clin Infect Dis. 2005;41:67-74.

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