HEALTH & WELLNESS
Is Contracting Chlamydia a Cause for Concern?
Being one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), chlamydia affects millions of people every single year. While it is not inherently lethal, this infection can severely affect your sex life and potentially the health of others if undiagnosed and untreated.
A long-term chlamydia infection can produce a number of additional health complications.
How Is Chlamydia Transmitted?
Caused by the bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis, it is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sex. While the bacteria usually survives in semen or vaginal fluids, the disease can be acquired through anal or oral sex, and not just vaginal intercourse.
In addition to genital contact, chlamydia can also be transmitted through the eye if it comes into contact with contaminated fluid from the genitals. Further, the infection can be passed through the use of contaminated sex toys, fingers or clothing too.
Besides sexual activity, it can also be passed from mother to infant through vaginal birth.
Finally, while not guaranteed to contract chlamydia or any other sexual disease, douching can remove beneficial bacteria from the vagina, which protects the body from picking up certain STIs or STDs.
What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?
In cases where the eye is infected, it can cause chlamydia conjunctivitis or trachoma. This condition causes a roughening of the inner eyelid which persistently irritates the eye and damages the cornea. Over time this damage will diminish eye sight and can even lead to irreversible blindness.
Other symptoms include eye discharge, swelling of the eyelids and lymph nodes around the eye, sensitivity to bright lights and additional complication which afflict the nose, ear and throat.
Since this disease can be spread through direct and indirect contact, and because people are more prone to touch their eyes, nose and face, this disease is more common in and more easily spread by children.
However, genital chlamydia affects either sex a bit differently.
In men, symptoms include inflammation of the urethra along with burning sensation during urination and discharge from the penis and anus.
Over time, the infection will cause a painful swelling in the testicles and may even produce a fever. If the infection reaches the epididymis, the infected man may become sterile.
In women, it is less likely to produce symptoms and thus spread to other individuals without the infected person’s knowledge. As a result, recent rapid transmission has been referred to by some medical authorities as a “silent epidemic.”
When women do show symptoms similar to men, including painful urination, discharge from the genitals or anus, fever and abdominal pain, sex becomes painful, periods may become substantially heavier and the urge to go to the bathroom increases.
Like other bacterial sexual infections, this disease can infect the cervix and also cause pelvic inflammation which scars the uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries, and may even cause infertility.
In instances where a woman contracts chlamydia and passes it to her child during birth, the child is likely to contract trachoma and catch pneumonia.
In both genders, chlamydia can cause reactive arthritis which produces inflammation of joints and possibly even eyes and urethra. Furthermore, it puts you at risk of contracting other STIs or STDs, such as HIV.
How Quickly Does Chlamydia Spread?
It’s important to remember that most infected people don’t initially show symptoms and some never do. However, even if symptoms aren’t present, you can still pass the infection on to someone else. In cases of the man being infected and engaging in unprotected, vaginal intercourse, the transmission rate is 40% per exposure, while in the reverse the rate is 32%.
While the bacteria can infect an individual at any age, the majority of cases occur in individuals who are in their teens to the age of 24. Most likely, this is due to the low rate at which young people use prophylactics relative to older individuals.
Further, whether or not a chlamydia disease is manifesting symptoms, the infection may persist for months or even years. In fact, one study found that half of all chlamydia infections last for about a year, 80% cleared up in 2 years, and 90% within three years. Further, in a quarter of infections, chlamydia lasts on an average of two years or more without treatment.
For these reasons, it’s important to be tested regularly, particularly if you are highly sexually active, and to always practice safe sex.
Is Chlamydia Treatable?
Fortunately, chlamydia is very easy to diagnose and can be detected either through a urine test or through a swab test. Like syphilis and gonorrhea, chlamydia is commonly tested in an STI screening. After being tested, you should receive results in a matter of days.
Further, treatment is relatively straightforward. Due to the damaging effects of PID infection specifically, treatment may even commence without confirmation of infection. The most common treatment is the administration of antibiotic pills.
Typically, you’ll have to take antibiotics for seven days. If you finish your regimen and symptoms persist, contact your doctor. If you are pregnant, tell your healthcare provider so they will prescribe you a special antibiotic treatment which won’t affect your pregnancy.
If you are being treated, abstain from having sex, protected or otherwise, even if you are on antibiotics.
Is Chlamydia Curable?
Yes, with proper antibiotic treatment, chlamydia can be cured. However, just because you’ve been treated and cured, you can contract the disease again.