What is it?
The most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, chlamydia, also classifies as one of the most dangerous sexually transmitted infections among women today. Genital chlamydia is the leading cause of preventable infertility and ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fertilized egg implants in tissue outside of the uterus and the placenta and fetus begin to develop there. Because many chlamydia infections are asymptomatic and probably chronic, widespread screening with appropriate treatment is necessary to control this infection.
An estimated three million people contract chlamydia each year.
Chlamydia can be considered a “silent” epidemic of sorts because three quarters of women and half of men with the disease have no symptoms. Possible symptoms include:
- Discharge from the penis or vagina and a burning sensation when urinating.
- Additional symptoms for women include lower abdominal pain or pain during intercourse and bleeding between menstrual periods.
- More advanced symptoms, which indicate development of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), include cramps, pain, bleeding between menstrual periods, vomiting or fever.
- Men may experience burning and itching around the opening of the penis and/or pain and swelling in the testicles.
The most commonly used treatments are a single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline. Common side effects of these treatments include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If you have chlamydia, all of your sexual partners should get tested and then treated if infected, whether or not they have symptoms of infection.
You can get and spread chlamydia through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex. Preventing chlamydia means approaching sexual relationships responsibly: limit the number of sexual partners, use condoms, and if you think you’re infected, avoid any sexual contact and visit a local STI clinic, hospital or health care provider to seek treatment. Be sure your partner is treated as well to avoid becoming reinforced. Other preventative measures are limiting the number of sex partners, practicing sexual abstinence and avoiding sexual contact if you think you are infected.