Chlamydia Is An STD
The Most Common STD
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and it is the most common STD found in sexually active teens and young adults. Caused by bacteria known as Chlamydia trachomatis, it is transmitted during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected partner. In the United States, it is estimated that about three million people are infected with Chlamydia each year. However, these numbers may be very inaccurate given the fact that most people do not know they have the disease since it does not always present with symptoms.
Chlamydia is easily treated, once it is diagnosed, but many women become re-infected because of having multiple sexual partners who are infected with the STD. The bacterium that causes Chlamydia has the potential to cause severe damage to a woman's reproductive organs and since there are few obvious signs or symptoms, the damage is often irreversible. Infertility can silently happen before the disease is even recognized.
The Symptoms Of Chlamydia
If symptoms do appear, it is often within one or two weeks of exposure to the bacteria. At first the urine canal and cervix are infected, causing a vaginal discharge or burning during urination. The infection moves through the uterus and into the fallopian tubes and symptoms may manifest in lower back and abdominal pain, fever and nausea, painful intercourse or bleeding between periods. Since the skin between the vagina and rectum is so thin, the infection can easily move from the cervix into the rectum with symptoms of inflammation and pain.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Infertility And Increased Risk Of HIV
If Chlamydia is left untreated, it can spell problems in the short and long term for both general and reproductive health. In nearly half of the women diagnosed with Chlamydia, the infection spreads to the uterus and fallopian tubes causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs leading to chronic pain, infertility and the potential of ectopic pregnancy, which can sometimes be fatal. The presence of PID also increases the risk of HIV dramatically.
Proper Screening, Diagnosis And Treatment
Since the symptoms of gonorrhea and Chlamydia are so similar, accurate diagnosis is important in order to receive the correct treatment. A swab from the cervix is the most reliable, although urine tests are often used as a method of diagnosing the disease as well. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics and the treatment is usually successful if the medication is taken as prescribed. A woman's partner should also be tested and medicated in order to prevent re-infection.
Regular screening is advised for all sexually active women, particularly those 25 years of age and younger. Equally important is screening for pregnant women since the infection can be passed to the baby in the womb. Of course, the best prevention is abstention and protection through long-term relationship with the same sexual partner, proper use of latex condoms and regular screening all help to keep this silent destroyer from wreaking havoc.