• What Is Chlamydia?
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Sexually Transmitted Diseases
|What Is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. It is an infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. About 1.4 million cases are reported to the CDC every year but it is estimated that the rate of infection is nearer 3 million. Under-reporting is very common because most women with chlamydia are not aware they are infected and do not seek treatment. Although it is easily curable with antibiotics this disease when untreated can silently damage a woman's reproductive organs. It is responsible for between 25 and 50 percent of cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which in turn can lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancy. Chlamydia is also responsible for 50 percent of all cervicitis cases (cervix inflammation).
Chlamydia spreads from one person to another through sexual contact - vaginal and anal sex; less commonly through oral sex - whether or not that person has noticeable symptoms. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during a vaginal birth. The bacterium chlamydia trachomatis exists in a different number of strains. Strains A, B and C cause chronic conjunctivitis (trachoma) which is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Strains D to K are sexually transmitted and cause the symptoms associated with chlamydia.
Symptoms in Women
Most women experience no symptoms and don't notice anything until their partner develops symptoms - but even this is not fail-safe because 1 in 4 men with the disease develop no symptoms. If a woman does show signs they are often confused with gonorrhea or urinary tract infections caused by a different type of bacteria. The most obvious signs in a woman, which may occur within 1 to 3 weeks of exposure to infection, are:
A STD clinic will be able to diagnose the disease for you. There are even home chlamydia tests which you can buy online or in pharmacies without prescription and cost about $30 (although the accuracy of these tests varies). Chlamydia testing is simple and painless. Either the clinician will perform a urine test or a swab (cotton bud) is used to take a sample of cells from the vagina or urethra (in a man). If you have had oral or anal sex a swab will also be taken from your throat or rectum. Your eyes may also be tested for signs of conjunctivitis.
Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline or erythromycin which are taken for 7 to 10 days. If you are pregnant and have chlamydia the treatment of choice is erythromycin. The entire prescription should be taken and then the swab or urine test should be repeated 4 weeks later to ensure the infection is gone. As chlamydia often co-exists with other STDs like gonorrhea or syphilis, you will need to undergo STD testing for other diseases. Your partner will also need to be screened and treated if necessary. There is no life-long immunity to chlamydia (or any STD), if you caught it once, you can catch it again.
• In women, chlamydia can lead to inflammation of the cervix.
You are more likely to develop it if you:
All women who are sexually active and not in a mutually monogamous relationship should:
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