What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis and occurs in both men and women. Each year more than 1 million people contract chlamydia worldwide. The infection is acquired mainly through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus of an infected partner. Ejaculation does not have to occur to become infected. Chlamydia can also cause a sore throat, although this rare.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia and when do they appear?
Most chlamydia infections cause no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they usually appear within 5-14 days of exposure. Men might have pain or burning during urination, discharge from the penis, and/or swelling or pain in the testicles. Women might have abnormal vaginal discharge, burning with urination, lower abdominal pain, painful intercourse, and/or bleeding between menstrual periods or after intercourse. Both men and women can have rectal pain, bleeding, or discharge especially if they have had anal sex and are infected and occasional, yet rare sore throat.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Testing includes a urine test for males and females or a swab test of vaginal secretions from a female. A swab of the anus or throat can also detect chlamydia in patients having anal or oral sex. A Pap test (a test for cervical cacer) does NOT screen for chlamydia.
Because the majority of people with chlamydia have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, it is important to be screened for chlamydia if you are sexually active or if you have a new sexual partner. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all sexually active women under the age of 25 be screened yearly. Women age 25 and older with risk factors (a new sexual partner or more than one sexual partner) should also be screened annually. Men who have sex with men (MSM) and have receptive anal sex should also be screened yearly. MSM who have multiple and/or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently.
What are the problems if chlamydia is not treated?
If left untreated, chlamydia infections have the potential to cause serious and permanent damage to the reproductive organs. The complications for women include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries), chronic pelvic pain, ectopic (outside the uterus) pregnancy, and infertility. Chlamydia can be passed to newborn infants of infected mothers potentially causing pneumonia and an eye infection. In men, chlamydia can damage the epididymis (adjacent to the testicles) and may lead to infertility and chronic testicular pain. Individuals infected with chlamydia are at increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to that virus.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics. According to the CDC, a week of Doxycycline is used for treatment. Individuals with chlamydia and their partner(s) should not have any sex for 7 days after treatment to avoid spreading the infection. If allergic to Doxycycline, another antibiotic will be provided.
It is important that all sexual partners within the past 60 days be notified, tested, and treated.
Return to clinic for recheck if:
- You had sex before you and/or your partner(s) finished treatment
- You forgot to take medication or did not take it exactly as prescribed
- Your symptoms don’t go away
- You missed your period or are pregnant
Repeat testing is recommended at 3 months after treatment to ensure that re-infection has not occurred.
How can chlamydia be prevented?
Condom use is one of the most effective means of preventing chlamydia. Consistent and proper use of condoms and dental dams can significantly reduce the risk of transmission of chlamydia.
Having only one partner whose only partner is you (mutually monogamous relationship) is another way to reduce your risk of contracting chlamydia.
Make sure you and your partner(s) are regularly screened for sexually transmitted infections to help prevent the spread of chlamydia.
If you have questions or want more information, please call the Student Health Center at 812-855-7688 to schedule an appointment with a provider. You can also set up an appointment regarding sexual health with our Health and Wellness department by calling 812-855-7338.
Further Information about chlamydia and other STIs:
- Centers for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/
- American Sexual Health Association https://www.ashasexualhealth.org/chlamydia-101/