Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It affects and damages the reproductive organ of women and infects urinary tract in both men and women.

The symptoms of Chlamydia are so mild that the infected person doesn’t even know that they are affected, until it results in irreversible complication like infertility. It can also spread through penile discharge from an infected man.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is called “silent disease” as it usually doesn’t show any signs and symptoms. If at all symptoms are seen then it appears within 1-3 weeks of exposure.

Few Chlamydia symptoms that show up in women are:

  • Infection in cervix and urethra
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation while urinating

If untreated, the infection spreads up affecting vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tube and ovaries resulting in Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Few with PID show symptoms like:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain in lower back
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Bleeding between menstrual cycles

Many do not show any signs and symptoms of chlamydia making it difficult to diagnose at the early stage.

The symptoms of Chlamydia in men are:

  • Abnormal penile discharge
  • Burning sensation during urinating
  • Itching
  • Burning around the penis opening

Partners who have receptive anal intercourse may acquire an infection in the rectum resulting in pain, discharge and bleeding in the rectum.

The bacteria Chlamydia is also found in the throat region of men and women, which is transmitted during oral sex with an infected partner.

Most men actually wait to see whether these discomforts goes away, many symptoms disappear too, but you may be still harboring the infection internally, therefore it is essential that you get it tested before serious complications invade. The ultimate result in an untreated individual is infertility.

Transmission of infection

Chlamydia is a sexually contagious disease; any sexually active person can be infected with Chlamydia as it spreads through semen and vaginal secretion. The bacteria causing Chlamydia spreads during vaginal, anal or oral sex. As it has no symptoms the infected person may transmit it to his/her partner unknowingly. The more the number of sex partners the more higher the risk of being infected.

In young women and teen age girls, the cervix is not fully matured, therefore it is more susceptible to infection. Since the bacteria passes through oral and anal sex, it can affect homosexuals also.

Chlamydia can be passed from mother to newborn during vaginal delivery, and cause eye infection and pneumonia in the newborn. The bacteria do not spread through casual touching or handshakes.

Treating Chlamydia

As Chlamydia doesn’t show any symptoms it is difficult to diagnose it in the early stage. But if you or your physician suspects that you might be infected with Chlamydia, he might perform few simple tests to confirm whether or not you are affected.

In women, diagnosis can be done using a urine sample or a vaginal swab. Your health care provider also looks for symptoms such as cervical discharge. Swabs taken from cervix, urethra or anus can also be used. In men a simple urine sample is enough to get reliable results. In very rare case urethral samples are taken. The results usually come within 7-10 days.

Chlamydia can be treated effectively and cured completely with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or doxycyclin twice everyday for a week proves effective. Make sure that your sexually partner is also treated for the same and abstain yourself from sex until your physician confirms that you and your partner are cured completely, as the chance of reappearance of infection is high with an untreated partner.

Multiple infections in women results in serious reproductive complications. To avoid complications and to make sure that the infection has not returned back, retest yourself three months after the initial treatment of chlamydia.

Remember to complete the full course of medicine even if the symptoms disappear, as the infection might be still in your body. Schedule regular follow-up visits to avoid recurrence.

Complications if left untreated

As said, Chlamydia is a silent infection that grows quietly without any sign and symptoms, it becomes difficult to detect it in the earlier stage. If left untreated, it can result in various serious complications.

In women, the infection spreads causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID and infection in the upper genital tract can silently damage fallopian tubes, uterus and the surrounding tissues. This damage results in pelvic pain, infertility and ectopic pregnancy (development of the fetus outside the uterus).

It also increases the risk of being affected with HIV, if exposed. In men, complications are very rare. Sometime the infection might spread to epididymis causing pain, fever and rarely sterility. Very rarely it might infect skin causing skin lesions; inflammation in the eyes and urethra, and arthritis.

Preventing second infection

One way of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infection is to abstain oneself from sex till the infection is cured completely. You should maintain a monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.

During sexual intercourse, using latex condom reduces the risk of STD. Women should avoid using douche (rinsing of vagina) as it reduces the number of good bacteria in the vagina and increases the risk of infection.

Annual screening for STD is recommended for sexually active persons and women above 25 years and for older women who are at high risk. Consult your health care provider once you notice any symptoms of STD.

Keeping talks open

It is very difficult to talk to anyone about sex related disease as is with any other medical issues. But it is very important that you need to be aware of STD and its complications.

Educate yourself and your partner that STD does not show any symptoms, and therefore, it is important that you follow safe sex.

Do not hesitate to have yourself checked for STD’s atleast once annually. Talk to your health care specialist if you have or suspect any abnormality.

Always remember “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.