Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection (STI) in North America. Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis , it is transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Symptoms

Chlamydia is known as a silent infection because it can cause irreversible damage to a woman's reproductive organs before she even realizes she has an infection. Between 40 and 70% of those infected do not have any symptoms. This is why infected individuals can transmit the bacteria without realizing it. When symptoms do occur, they might start as early as five to ten days after exposure, or may only appear several week later.

For women, symptoms can include:

  • vaginal discharge
  • a burning feeling when urinating
  • pain during intercourse
  • pain in the lower abdomen or in the lower back, sometimes with fever and chills
  • vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after intercourse
  • rectal pain or discharge

For men, symptoms can include:

  • a watery or milky discharge from the penis
  • a burning feeling when urinating
  • burning or itching around the opening of the penis
  • rectal pain or discharge
  • swollen or tender testicles

Diagnosis

If you engage in risky sexual behaviour, get tested for chlamydia and other STIs regularly. Talk to your doctor about how often you should go for screening. If you become pregnant, be sure to go for testing as soon as possible.

Treatment

Treatment, which is simple and effective, consists of antibiotics taken as a single dose or several doses administered over the course of a few days. When you hand over your prescription to the pharmacist, be sure to let them know if you are pregnant or are being treated for another STI.

Infected individuals must refrain from having unprotected sex until the treatment course is completed (or for seven days following a single dose treatment).

All sexual partners must be treated. It is important to notify all partners who may have been exposed. Since we do not become immune to the bacteria, reinfection is possible if partners are not treated.

Note: the symptoms associated with chlamydia are similar to those of gonorrhea. Treatment however, is not the same. Get tested and get treated for both infections if necessary.

Prevention

The best protection against chlamydia is to abstain from having sex or to be in a monogamous relationship with a healthy partner. Otherwise, you can lower your risk of contracting the infection by using a condom or a dental dam. Penetration and ejaculation are not required for transmission.

Complications

When left untreated, chlamydia can cause chronic pelvic pain and infertility in women. Possible complications in men include inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) and infertility in rare cases. If left untreated, men and women can eventually develop joint pain and eye problems. These individuals also have a greater risk of getting HIV if exposed.

The use of a condom is an important preventive measure that will help lower your chances of contracting chlamydia or another STI.

For more information:

Sex and U

www.sexandu.ca

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