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Chlamydia Infection: A common STI
November 19 , 2013

Chlamydia infection is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is the most common curable STI worldwide, and is passed on from one person to another through unprotected sex (sex without a condom). C. trachomatis is naturally found living only inside human cells. Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and can be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth. It infects the cervix in women, and the penile urethra in men. Its most frequent symptoms are pain during sex, and discharge from the penis or vagina. However, the reason chlamydia is so common is that most people who get chlamydia don’t have symptoms for weeks, months, or even years. Despite the lack of symptoms, it’s important to get screened and treated if there has been any chances of exposure because chlamydia infection, if left untreated can cause serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences. Sexually active females 25 years old and younger need testing every year. Between half and three-quarters of all women who have a chlamydia infection of the cervix (cervicitis) have no symptoms and do not know that they are infected. In men, infection of the urethra (urethritis) is usually symptomatic, causing a white discharge from the penis with or without pain on urinating (dysuria). Occasionally, the condition spreads to the upper genital tract in women (causing pelvic inflammatory disease) or to the epididymis in men (causing epididymitis).  Chlamydia infection can also affect the eye causing Chlamydia conjunctivitis or trachoma and is a common cause of blindness worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it accounted for 15% of blindness cases in 1995, but only 3.6% in 2002.

Signs and Symptoms

MEN:  Chlamydia symptoms in men may include: 

A painful or burning sensation when urinating

An unusual discharge from the penis

Swollen or tender testicles

Pain or discharge from the rectum

Fever

If left untreated, it is possible for chlamydia in men to spread to the testicles causing epididymitis, which in rare cases can cause sterility if not treated within 6 to 8 weeks. Chlamydia is also a potential cause of prostitis.

Women: Chlamydia is known as the "Silent Epidemic" because in women, it may not cause any symptoms in 70%-80% of cases. Chlamydia Symptoms in women may include: 

Vaginal irritation 

Unusual Vaginal discharge 

Painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)

Pain or discharge from the rectum 

Pain in the lower abdomen 

Severe pelvic pain from an infection that has ascended from the cervix into the upper reproductive tract.

Painful urination or the urge to urinate more frequently than usual (urinary urgency)

Fever

If left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a generic term for infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries can develop, causing scarring inside the reproductive organs, which can later cause serious complications, including chronic pelvic pain, difficulty becoming pregnant, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and other dangerous complications of pregnancy.

Diagnosis

Testing for C. trachomatisa is done with a urine test or a swab test and physical examination.

Treatment

C. trachomatis infection can be effectively cured with antibiotics once it is detected. Antibiotics include azithromycin, doxycycline, erythromycin, or ofloxacin. Agents recommended for pregnant women include erythromycin or amoxicillin.

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Learn more about this author, Victory Oyaletor.
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