Chlamydia
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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. Women are frequently re-infected if their sex partners are not treated.

 
 
Signs and symptoms
Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease because the majority of infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. 
 
 

In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix and the urethra resulting in an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. If the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. Chlamydial infection of the cervix can spread to the rectum causing rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding. Chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected partner.

 

Men might have a discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating or around the opening of the penis. Pain and swelling in the testicles are uncommon.


Mode of transmission
Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner. Chlamydia can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth.


Diagnostic test
There are laboratory tests to diagnose chlamydia. Some can be performed on urine while others require specimen collection from a site such as the penis or cervix.

 


Treatment
Chlamydia can be treated and cured with antibiotics such as azithromycin or doxycycline. All sex partners should be tested, and treated. Persons with chlamydia should abstain from sexual intercourse until they and their sex partners have completed treatment, otherwise re-infection is possible. Having multiple infections increases a woman's risk of serious reproductive health complications, including infertility. Retesting should be encouraged 3 months after treatment of an initial infection.


Prevention and control

     
  • To help prevent the serious consequences of chlamydia, screening at least annually for chlamydia is recommended for all sexually active women. All pregnant women should have a screening test for chlamydia.
  • Abstain from sexual contact or maintain a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
  • Consistent and correct use of barrier protection, such as condoms reduces the risk of transmission of chlamydia.
  • A person should seek medical help immediately if he or she has any genital symptoms such as an unusual sore, discharge with odour, burning during urination, or bleeding between menstrual cycles.
 

 

Complications
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."
 
In women, untreated infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This happens in about 10-15% of women with untreated chlamydia. 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).
 
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).