Chlamydia

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a curable sexually transmitted infection (STI) of the genital tract.

If left untreated, chlamydia may damage the genital tract and lead to serious illnesses, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in females, and inflammation of the tubes that carry semen (epididymitis) in males.

Pregnant women may also pass the infection onto their babies during vaginal childbirth. This is because the newborn is exposed to the mother’s blood and other bodily fluids during birth.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

During the early stages of chlamydia, most patients experience few or no symptoms of an infection. In general, symptoms usually develop one to three weeks after the bacterium has entered the body.
If patients develop the infection after having engaged in vaginal sex, common symptoms include:

  • painful urination
  • vaginal or penile discharge
  • lower abdominal pain
  • painful sexual intercourse in women
  • testicular pain in men

Read more about Chlamydia Symptoms

Complications

Patients infected with chlamydia are more vulnerable to other STDs, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), gonorrhea, and syphilis, if they are exposed to them. Therefore, patients who test positive for chlamydia are often tested for other STDs.

Women and Chlamydia

Females with untreated chlamydia may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. If left untreated, PID may cause permanent damage to the reproductive tract, which may lead to infertility. It may also lead to long-term pelvic pain.

Men and Chlamydia

Males with untreated chlamydia may develop a condition called epididymitis. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the tubes near the testicles that carry semen.

Symptoms include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • enlarged lymph nodes

Testing

Patients should talk to their healthcare providers to determine how often they should be tested for chlamydia. Patients who have symptoms of chlamydia or suspect that they may have been exposed to chlamydia should be tested.
The CDC recommends that all pregnant women are screened for chlamydia during the first prenatal examination and possibly later on in the pregnancy.
How are Chlamydia Tests administered?

Treatments for Chlamydia

Chlamydia is curable. Patients take prescription antibiotics, such as azithromycin (Zithromax®), doxycycline, or erythromycin (ERYC® or Ery-Tab®), by mouth. Treatment may last up to 10 days. Patients should take their medications exactly as prescribed. Even if symptoms go away, medications should not be stopped early because the bacteria may still be present in the body.

The patient’s sexual partner(s) will also require treatment, even if they do not have symptoms of the infection. Otherwise, the patient may become re-infected with chlamydia.

Promising alternative therapies to treat chlamydia

Prevention

If you have been experiencing symptoms of Chlamydia, or suspect you have been exposed to Chlamydia, please be sure to get tested.

If you’re unsure of how often you should get tested, talk to your doctor.

Selected References
American Social Health Association. www.ashastd.org. Accessed April 28, 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). www.cdc.gov. Accessed April 28, 2009.
Cline JS. Sexually transmitted diseases: will this problem ever go away? N C Med J. 2006 Sep-Oct;67(5):353-8.
Enders M, Regnath T, Tewald F, et al. Syphilis. Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 2007 Jan 19;132(3):77-8.
Flipp E, Raczynski P, El Midaoui A, et al. Chlamydia trachomatis infection in sexually active adolescents and young women. Med Wieku Rozwoj. 2005 Jan-Mar;9(1):57-64.
Rupp RE, Stanberry LR, Rosenthal SL. Vaccines for sexually transmitted infections. Pediatr Ann. 2005 Oct;34(10):818-20, 822-4.