Know Your STDs: Chlamydia

In order to protect your sexual health, it is a good idea to be familiar with the various sexually transmitted infections that can be spread through intimate contact with an infected individual. Fortunately, many STDs can be treated, but the first step is to be able to spot signs and symptoms of certain illnesses. Today, we will look at a very common STD: Chlamydia.

Facts and figures

Not only is chlamydia a well known sexually transmitted infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports it is the most frequently reported STD in America. The infection is often seen in younger individuals between the ages of 14 and 19, and experts estimate one in 15 people in this age group have had chlamydia. More than 1.4 million cases were reported in 2011, and the CDC estimates the annual occurrence of infection is closer to double the reported number. Planned Parenthood reports this STD is five times more common than gonorrhea and 30 times more common than syphilis.

What it is and how it’s spread

Chlamydia is an infection caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis that can be spread through sexual contact including anal, oral and vaginal intercourse. Planned Parenthood indicates the infection can affect the vagina, penis, cervix, urethra, anus, throat and even eyes. If a woman is pregnant and infected, she might spread the illness to the fetus when giving birth.

Symptoms

This infection can be difficult to identify, as there are often little to no symptoms. The National Institutes of Health indicates that only about one in four men exhibit symptoms that include burning sensations during urination, testicular tenderness and discharge from the penis or rectum. In rare cases, untreated cases of chlamydia in men may lead to pain, fevers and even infertility.

Approximate 30 percent of women may experience symptoms such as burning during urination, pain during sex, rectal pain and vaginal or rectal discharge. Chlamydia affects the woman’s cervix, and can spread to the fallopian tubes and uterus if left untreated. The CDC reports this may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can potentially lead to infertility and other serious complications.

Diagnosis and prevention

Medical professionals can find out if you may have chlamydia through urine tests as well as by analyzing a cell sample if there are no visible symptoms. If you test positive, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics that may be taken over seven days or in one single dose. It is important that both you and your partner both complete treatments for chlamydia before having sex again, as repeat infections are common, the CDC reports.

Condoms are the best defense for sexually active individuals to prevent the transmission of chlamydia. You should also be tested regularly, especially if you have multiple partners, to ensure that you catch the illness early on.

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