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Chlamydia: Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on June 8, 2012

Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, and has been around for ages. And it’s way easy to spread; I’m betting everyone at Woodstock had it before Hendrix got round to flaming his guitar.

And it’s still with us; it’s the most commonly diagnosed STD in the USA. That’s 2.8 million new cases each year – not to mention all those people who don’t know they still have it from last year.

How do I get it?

Sex, usually. This is transmitted via vaginal and anal intercourse, so this affects all populations: hetero, homosexual and bisexual. You can get this via oral sex as well, because the bacteria can live in the throat. Which means a woman (or man) can pass this along during fellatio, and it can be passed during cunnilingus as well. Yes, no kidding. It’s important to note you don’t need to even have this level of sexual contact to get it. You could get this via heavy petting if the genitalia come in contact with each other. Which actually is a very common occurrence for teenagers, which is how some of them end up having to be treated for Chlamydia whilst still being virgins.

What are the symptoms?

There often aren’t any. If symptoms present in a male, it’s usually in the form of a burning sensation whilst urinating. There could also be some degree of discharge. The uretha may be inflamed, causing burning and itching there, as well. If it’s been acquired anally, there could be discharge, burning or bleeding in this area. Women often are asymptomatic, but when they do have symptoms, it can be in the form of discharge, burning and pain. As the infection spreads back to the cervix, there may or may not be symptoms of abdominal pain, cramps, back pain, etc. It’s just as possible there will be none, even once it progresses to the fallopian tubes.

What’s the worst that can happen to me?

How about infertility? That’s the main risk for women, as it can scar the fallopian tubes to the point childbearing is no longer possible. It happens when undiagnosed Chlamydia creates Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which then screws up everything else. Note: The CDC states that women with Chlamydia are FIVE TIMES more likely to acquire HIV. Think about that! With men, it’s not usually so damaging, but it can still lead to infertility when it is.

How do I get tested?

Women can do this during their yearly GYN exam. Also, both men and women can visit their doctor or local STD clinic and give them a urine sample – it’s really that easy.

What if I have it?

Chlamydia is easily treated. Your doctor will give you some meds – these days a single mega dose of Azithromycin is quite common - and that will be the end of it.

How can I prevent it?

It’s not as simple as just saying “use a condom” and that’s why so many people have it. Certainly condoms help prevent the spreading of it via vaginal and anal intercourse, but oral sex is less easy to take precautions with. The best way to protect yourself during the latter is to ask your partner to test themselves before you engage in sexual activity. Obviously, most people aren’t inclined to do this, or 2.8 million people wouldn't catch it every year. Not really surprising how common the infection is.


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