Chlamydia is the number one sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman's reproductive organs.
Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility. Chlamydia can occur "silently" before a woman ever recognizes a problem. Chlamydia can also cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.
How Is It Spread?
Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Chlamydia can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth.
Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection. Because the cervix (opening to the uterus) of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured, they are at particularly high risk for infection if sexually active.
Since chlamydia can be transmitted by oral or anal sex, men who have sex with men are also at risk for chlamydial infection.
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- Frequently asymptomatic (no symptoms)
- Vaginal or penile discharge
- Burning during urination
- Women may experience lower abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, and irregular bleeding between periods.
- Men may experience swelling or pain in the testicles.
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What Are The Effects?
If untreated, chlamydial infections can progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences. Like the disease itself, the damage that chlamydia causes is often "silent."
In women, untreated infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This happens in up to 40 percent of women with untreated chlamydia.
PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues. The damage can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). Women infected with chlamydia are up to five times more likely to become infected with HIV, if exposed.
To help prevent the serious consequences of chlamydia, screening at least annually for chlamydia is recommended for all sexually active women age 25 years and younger.
Complications among men are rare. Infection sometimes spreads to the epididymis (a tube that carries sperm from the testis) – causing pain, fever, and, rarely, sterility.
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- The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
- Latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of chlamydia.
- Chlamydia screening is recommended annually for all sexually active women 25 years of age and younger. Any genital symptoms such as discharge, burning during urination, or unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to consult a health care provider immediately.
- If a person has been treated for chlamydia (or any other STI), he or she should notify all recent sex partners so they can see a health care provider and be treated.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Chlamydia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Centers for Infectious Diseases.
STD Wizard: It takes 5 minutes to find out if you need to be tested for an STI such as hepatitis, HIV or Chlamydia.