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Chlamydia

Chlamydia trachomatis

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomitis. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States and worldwide. Approximately 2.5 million people are infected with Chlamydia in the United States. The most common ages affected by this STI are 15-24 year olds. Chlamydia is known as the "Silent Epidemic" because of the irreversible long-term damage it causes, such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy, while most people are asymptomatic.

How is it transmitted?*The image above shows Chlamydia trachomatis.

Chlamydia is transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth.

How can you protect yourself?

Abstinence is the only 100% effective protective strategy for preventing the contraction of Chlamydia. Safe sex practices and consistent condom use are important ways to help reduce chances of contracting Chlamydia. An annual screening test for Chlamydia is recommended for sexually active women with new or multiple partners.

What are the symptoms in women?

Approximately 75% of women do not experience symptoms. Typical symptoms include a burning sensation during urination, painful sexual intercourse, vaginal discharge, vaginal itch, back and abdominal discomfort, fever, nausea, and bleeding between menstrual periods. Symptoms do not develop until 1-3 weeks after exposure.

What are the symptoms in men?

Approximately 50% of men do not experience symptoms. Typical symptoms include a burning sensation during urination, discharge from the penis or rectum, testicular tenderness or pain, rectal pain, and itching. These symptoms are similar to those of Gonorrhea and typically develop 1-3 weeks after exposure.

How is it diagnosed?

A lab test is required to diagnose Chlamydia. It is important to realize that Chlamydia is not a routine lab test; therefore, it needs to be asked for specifically. Some lab tests can be performed by urine analysis while others require that a specimen be collected from the penis or cervix. A faster Chlamydia test is currently in development. For more information about this upcoming Rapid Test click here.

What is the treatment?

In 95% of cases, Chlamydia can be cured with a single round of antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics include tetracycline, azithromycin, erythromycin, and doxycycline. However, both partners need to be treated with antibiotics in order to prevent reinfection. Retesting is encouraged 3 months after the treatment of an initial infection.

What are the long-term health effects?

Although many cases of Chlamydia are asymptomatic, the long-term health effects of repeated infections or untreated infections are dire. Complications in women include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Scarring
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Infertility

In pregnant women, Chlamydia can cause premature delivery, and it makes the infant susceptible to conjunctivitis (eye infection) and pneumonia.

Complications among men are rare but may include infection spreading to the epididymis (tube that transports sperm from the testis) causing pain, fever, and sometimes sterility. Chlamydia in males can cause arthritis accompanied by skin lesions and inflammations of the eye and urethra, known as Reiter's Syndrome.

Additional Facts and Findings:

Development of a Chlamydia vaccine is being actively pursued. Though none have progressed to clinical trials yet, some groups hope to enter into clinical trials within the next few years.

Another way of tackling the spread of Chlamydia is through early detection, a process made easier by the newly developed Rapid Chlamydia Test. Current diagnostic tests can take days for results, thereby increasing the risk of spreading the infection. The Rapid Test results only take a couple hours. Although it has not been approved for public use, it is in its final stages of clinical trials with promising results.

Link to YouTube video about the new Rapid Chlamydia Test.

A negative Chlamydia test does not indicate the absence of an infection. Nongonococcal Urethritis Infection (NGU) has similar symptoms to Chlamydia but cannot be detected by STI testing. NGU requires requires antibiotic treatment. The most common antibiotics used to treat NGU are azithromycin, doxycycline, erythromycin, and ofloxacin.

For additional information on Chlamydia visit the following websites or contact the Student Health Center: