You’ve probably heard of chlamydia, but how much do you know about it? If you haven’t learned about it since grade school, it can be helpful to learn about it again. If there are symptoms you have that are similar to this sexually transmitted infection, it's essential to get tested. If you find out you have chlamydia, it's even more important to get regular treatment. Here's what you need to know about the infection.
1. How is Chlamydia Transmitted?
Transmission of chlamydia can happen through unprotected oral sex and sex without a condom. You should be aware that even without penetration, it's still possible to get chlamydia with a person who has it. Any skin-to-skin contact of genitals can potentially spread the bacteria. It's also possible for newborn babies to get infected from a mother during birth. Unlike other sexually transmitted infections, you can get chlamydia through kissing or sharing drinking glasses. Your chances of getting this STI are higher if you have multiple sex partners, currently have an infection or had STI in the past.
2. Can Both Men and Women Get Chlamydia?
Women are more likely to have chlamydia than men. The highest rates of infection occur in women who are between the ages of 15 and 24. It's a recommendation by the CDC that all women between these ages get screened for the infection yearly. Additionally, older women are advised to get screened as well if they've had new or multiple partners. There's no clear estimate of how many people have chlamydia given how often cases go unreported. Nonetheless, it's found to be the most commonly reported STI, and the number of people contracting it continues to rise.
3. What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?
The symptoms of chlamydia can also vary between men and women. In the case of men, most aren’t aware they’re experiencing the symptoms or may have no symptoms at all. The symptoms typically appear a few weeks after transmission. The common ones that men may experience include pain in the lower abdomen, green discharge from the penis, or a burning sensation when urinating. Men should be aware that chlamydia can also occur in the anus and the mouth. Symptoms can include discharge in the anus, bleeding, sore throat, or fever.
Women experience similar, but slightly different symptoms related to chlamydia. A few of the common ones include pain during sex, bleeding between a period, and an inflamed cervix. Similarly, with men, women can also get chlamydia in the mouth or anus if engaging in certain sexual activities with someone who has the infection. Women should be particularly concerned about getting screened to prevent the possibility of the infection spreading to the fallopian tubes. The infection spreading to the fallopian tubes can cause a very serious medical condition called pelvic inflammatory disease. In general, chlamydia often doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms.
4. How Will a Doctor Diagnose Chlamydia?
Most doctors will ask about the symptoms you’ve been having if you suspect you may have contracted it. Diagnoses are generally made through getting the swab of a woman’s vagina or testing the urine of a man. The throat and anus can also be swabbed if there’s any concern of chlamydia having spread to those areas. You should get your results back in a few days. Your doctor will go over your next steps through a follow-up appointment if you’ve tested positive.
5. How is Chlamydia Treated?
The treatment for chlamydia involves taking antibiotics. Your doctor can prescribe you one, and you should make sure you follow the instructions of how much you should take it. Chlamydia can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to clear up. Be mindful that you can still spread the infection while you’re being treated for it. Avoid having any sexual intercourse until the infection has completely cleared up.
6. What Happens if Chlamydia is Left Untreated?
The sooner you get screened for chlamydia and treat it, the more likely you won’t have any long-term problems. As mentioned earlier, females put themselves at risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease if chlamydia is left untreated. This condition can damage a woman's uterus, ovaries, and cervix. As a result, some women can become infertile because of scarring to the fallopian tubes. If a woman is pregnant, it's important to treat chlamydia to avoid passing the bacteria to the baby. If it's passed to the baby, the newborn may get pneumonia or an eye infection.
Men who leave this infection untreated may experience a painful sensation in the testicles. They also risk the infection moving to the prostate gland, which can lead to painful intercourse, pain in the back, and fever.
7. What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia in the Eye?
While more commonly found in the genital area, it's possible for chlamydia to get into other areas of the body such as the eye. If you touch a person who has the infection, and then touch your eye without washing it, this will cause the infection to transmit there. The most common symptoms that will present itself include swelling, irritation, sensitivity to light, and redness. If you suspect you have chlamydia in your eye, it's important to get it tested and treated. Failure to treat it can eventually cause blindness in the eye.
8. What's the Difference between Chlamydia and Gonorrhea?
It’s understandable to get these two infections confused at times, given some of their similarities. They both have similar symptoms and are both caused by bacteria. A key difference between these two infections is the timing in which symptoms develop. People who have contracted chlamydia will notice symptoms within a few weeks. Gonorrhea takes a longer time before any symptoms potentially appear. Despite that, both can be treated with antibiotics.
The important thing to remember to avoid catching chlamydia is to practice safe sex. Use protection when you’re engaging in sexual activity with a new partner. You should also get tested regularly after being with new partners, and also not have unprotected oral sex until your partner is screened. You can learn more about STIs and get tested anonymously by visiting self collect.