A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that is spread by sexual contact. Some infections can even be spread by skin-to-skin contact. There are several STIs, including those caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most frequently reported STI is chlamydia.
What Is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is an STI caused by a bacteria. Every year, 1 in every 20 sexually active women ages 14-24 are diagnosed with chlamydia. Men can also become infected with chlamydia.
How Can Someone Get It?
Chlamydia is spread through sexual activity. This includes oral, vaginal, and anal sex in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It can also be spread from an infected pregnant woman to her baby during childbirth. If you have been infected with chlamydia, it is possible to get infected again at another point in time.
What Are Some Symptoms of Chlamydia?
Chlamydia often may go unnoticed because people can have the infection without any signs or symptoms. Some common symptoms that a patient may present with include the following:
It is important to screen all sexually active people for chlamydia.
Who Should Be Tested and How Does Testing Occur?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all women under the age of 25 are screened for STIs annually, which includes testing for chlamydia. Higher risk populations should be tested at least annually for STIs.
Testing for chlamydia can be performed easily via urine screening (or sometimes through other methods). A urine sample will be obtained from a patient and results take approximately 48 hours to return.
Is It Preventable?
Chlamydia is preventable by practicing safe sex. While not having sex at all is safest, if sexual activity occurs, it is important to wear a latex condom every time. There are condoms available for both males and females, as well as options that are latex-free for those with allergies to latex. Always check the expiration date of a condom prior to use.
Are There Any Treatments or Cures for Chlamydia?
Because chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics. It is recommended to be retested for chlamydia around 2 or 3 months after completing a the antibiotics to make sure the infection has been treated. Even with a negative retest, it is important to screen annually or if a person has changed sexual partners since their last STI screening.
In addition to being treated for chlamydia, it is important to disclose the diagnosis with sexual partners. While this is not required, in some states a health care provider is legally able to prescribe medication for treatment of chlamydia to both sexual partners without having to perform any examination or testing on the partner. This is known as “Expedited Partner Therapy,” which makes treatment for and education around chlamydia easier for everyone.
What Happens if Chlamydia Is Not Treated?
If chlamydia is not treated, it can lead to long term complications for both men and women. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ectopic pregnancy, or a pregnancy that occurs outside of a woman’s womb, are the most common complications in women. For men, complications with the tubes within the testes may cause inflammation and eventually lead to difficulties with fertility. Untreated chlamydia increases the risk for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which is the leading cause of AIDS.
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