By: Dr. Gary Bellman on October 9, 2013
is the most commonly reported STD
(sexually transmitted disease) in the United States-- more than one million cases every year. But because Chlamydia can infect you without causing symptoms, estimates suggest that the real number is actually closer to three million. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of your genital tract. It may be difficult for you to detect because early-stage infections often cause few or no signs and symptoms. When they do occur, they usually start 1-3 weeks after you've been exposed to Chlamydia, and when signs and symptoms do occur, they're often mild and passing, making them easy to overlook.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- painful urination
- lower abdominal pain
- vaginal discharge in women
- discharge from the penis in men
- pain during sexual intercourse in women
- testicular pain in men
Additionally, it can cause cervicitis in women; urethritis (an inflammation of the urethra) and proctitis (an inflammation of the lining of the rectum) in both men and women. Chlamydial infections in women can lead to serious consequences including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), tubal factor infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. Women who are pregnant with Chlamydia can spread it to their babies, causing an eye or lung infection. Also, this curable infection can cause one to be 5 times more likely to get infected with the AIDS virus
. These are all reasons why timely Chlamydia treatment is so important.
How does Chlamydia affect HIV transmission?
Chlamydia infection causes a great deal of inflammation at the site of infection; inflammation recruits immune cells (targets of HIV) to the site of infection. Therefore, it increases the vulnerability of an HIV-negative person, and the infectiousness of an HIV-positive person. An HIV-negative person who is infected with Chlamydia is three times more likely to become infected with HIV through sexual contact than someone who is not infected with Chlamydia. Studies have shown that HIV-positive men with an untreated Chlamydia infection have at least five times more HIV in their semen than they do after they receive Chlamydia treatment.
How to protect yourself:
Since most people with Chlamydia do not have any symptoms, the best way to get diagnosed is to be tested by a healthcare professional. Diagnosing Chlamydia can be done by taking a swab from an infected area or with a urine test
. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC
- testing for anyone who has Chlamydia symptoms
- yearly testing for any sexually active person age 25 or younger
- yearly testing for anyone over age 25 who has a new sex partner or more than one sex partner
- women who become pregnant
The best news about this STD
is that it can be easily treated with oral antibiotic medications
. To prevent getting re-infected, you need to make sure that any sexual partner also gets treated.
In our office we advocate following these important guidelines:
- restrain from any sexual contact until you have completed the full course of antibiotics
- make sure that your sexual partner has been tested and treated as well
- inform your physician if you are pregnant; there are specific treatment antibiotics that are safe during pregnancy.
- contact and return to the office if symptoms have not gone away after you have finish your course of antibiotics.
- repeating a urine test in three months to reassure infection has been cleared
The surest way to protect yourself from this STD is through prevention. Limit your sexual contact to one faithful partner. Practice safe sex by using a latex condom from the beginning to the end of any sexual contact. You can also protect yourself from Chlamydia by being aware of the danger, knowing Chlamydia symptoms, and following the CDC guidelines for testing. Early Chlamydia treatment can prevent PID
For further evaluation or inquiries, schedule an appointment today! You can reach our office at 818.703.9500