Sexually transmitted diseases are something that no one likes to talk about, but everyone should be educated on. Today, you will learn about our country’s most prevalent STD- Chlamydia.
Chlamydia, or Chlamydia Trachomatis (CT), to be exact, is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by an infection of CT bacteria in the genital region. Each year, the United States Center for Disease Control estimates that 2.8 million people are infected with the disease, and most of them don’t know it. It is a very common infection, and is easily medicated if caught early.
Since most people do not experience symptoms upon infection, most people are not aware they’ve contracted the disease at all. Left untreated, Chlamydia can lead to severe Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, or PID, which can cause chronic abdominal and lower back pain in females. It can also cause reproductive organ damage that is irreversible, as well as infertility.
Some people -about 25%- do experience symptoms. These symptoms can include abnormal vaginal discharge, painful or burning urination, lower abdominal or back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse and/or spotting between periods for women. Men experience a burning or itching at the opening of the penis, as well as tender, swollen testes. The symptoms can also be experienced rectally in both homosexual and heterosexual individuals who have anal sex. While chlamydia infections manifest in the genitals, chlamydia trachomatis bacteria can live in the moist, warm environment of the mouth for weeks, therefore making oral sex another method of transmission.
If symptoms do occur, they will do so within one to three weeks after the original infection. If you experience any symptoms, get to your doctor’s office for testing and treatment as soon as possible. The earlier the infection is caught, the easier it is to manage. Unlike other STD’s, chlamydia is completely curable. However, if left untreated too long, it’s effects are not.
All individuals are advised by the CDC to be tested for chlamydia annually. If you believe you may be infected, or you’ve had unprotected sex with someone whom you weren’t completely sure was tested and negative, get tested immediately.
Pregnant women should be tested for the disease early in pregnancy. Premature delivery of the fetus in women with active, untreated chlamydia infections is not uncommon. Children born to infected women can experience respiratory infections, conjunctivitis (“pink-eye”), early infant pneumonia and other eye infections, so it is very important to be treated for the disease if you test positive and you are pregnant.
The treatment for chlamydia consists of the antibiotics azithromycin in a single dose, or a one week regimen of doxycycline taken twice per day. Some doctors will administer both azithromycin and doxycycline to be sure that the infection is treated successfully. The chlamydia treatment regimen for HIV positive persons is the same as for those who are HIV negative. Persons infected with chlamydia should not have sex at all until the prescribed treatment regimen has been completed. Remember also to take ALL of the prescribed medication- do not stop early just because you feel better, as the infection could come back.
It is very important that all of your sexual partners are tested and treated for the disease if you’ve been diagnosed. Otherwise you could be reinfected easily, as well as any other people that your partners might have sex with.
Prevention of chlamydia is simple and effective. The best way to prevent any STD is by abstaining from sex altogether. If this is not possible, latex condoms are crucial when you do have sex. Unless your are in a committed, monogamous relationship with a person whom you know has been tested negative for chlamydia and other STD’s, sex should always be protected.
The two best keys to keeping yourself STD free are achieved by having safe, protected sex and getting tested annually at your doctor’s office. Remember, if you do find that you are infected with chlamydia, don’t worry. It is treatable and easily prevented in the future. Just follow these simple rules and your health, as well as your sexual partners, will be protected.