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What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is the nation's most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection, with over 800,000 cases reported in 2002. It is the nation's leading cause of infertility.
Chlamydia (cla-MID-ee-uh) is spread by direct sexual contact. People usually do not realize they have the disease because symptoms are very mild or do not appear at all. As a result, they may not seek treatment until serious complications occur.
When symptoms are present, women may suffer itching and burning in the genital area, vaginal discharge, dull abdominal pain and bleeding between menstrual periods. Men may experience painful urination and watery discharge from the penis.
Symptoms may appear several days to several weeks after exposure.
Can Chlamydia Infections be Dangerous?
Yes, if untreated. In women, the infection can spread from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, which may become blocked with scar tissue, resulting in infertility.
Chlamydia is believed to be the major cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the entire female reproductive system.
Chlamydia can also be passed from a woman to her child during birth, causing pneumonia and eye infections.
In men, chlamydia is believed to be the major cause of nongonococcal urethritis (NGU), an infection of the urinary tract which, if left untreated, can lead to inflammation of the testicles and sterility.
What Should I Do if I Suspect I Have Chlamydia?
See your clinician and ask for a test. This involves taking a specimen from the genital area, a simple procedure.
Routine chlamydia testing is recommended for individuals with the following characteristics:
- Women who use birth control pills and not condoms
- Having a new sex partner within two months
- A history of more than one sex partner
- A history of sexually transmitted infections
If the test is positive, you and your sexual partner should be treated with antibiotics. Avoid sex until the treatment is completed.
If properly used, condoms provide good protection against chlamydia. Use lubricated latex condoms. If additional lubricant is added, make sure it is water based. There is evidence that lamb or natural skin condoms do not protect against STIs because the membrane is too porous.
Know your partner. If you are unsure of your partner's contacts outside your relationship, insist that a condom is used during oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
If you and your partner have other sexual contacts, you should have regular examinations.