What is Chlamydia? Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacteria. Both men and women can become infected and although common, it can cause permanent damage to the female reproductive organs.
Currently, Chlamydia is the most frequently reported STD in the U.S. with an estimated 2.86 million infections occurring annually. However, a large number of Chlamydia cases are not reported due to the fact that a person can be infected and have no symptoms at all. Chlamydia is most common among young people (between the ages of 14-19 years) and the CDC estimates that 1 in 15 sexually active females are infected.
How do people get Chlamydia? People get Chlamydia by having sex with someone who has the infection. It can be transmitted through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Once someone has been treated for Chlamydia that person can get Chlamydia again. It can also be spread through childbirth from the mother to the infant.
What are the symptoms? Chlamydia often has no symptoms which make routine screenings for STDs so important. If symptoms are present, they usually occur weeks after the initial exposure. In females, there may be an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. If left untreated, the bacteria can damage the fallopian tubes and the uterus causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can also be silent or it can cause some lower abdominal pain. PID can affect a female’s ability to get pregnant and can also further complications later on. In males, a penile discharge may be present or a burning sensation while urinating. Again, symptoms do not usually occur in females or males with Chlamydia.
Who should get tested? The CDC recommends yearly Chlamydia testing for all sexually active women age 25 or younger and older women with risk factors for Chlamydial infections (e.g., women who have a new or more than one sex partner in a year), and all pregnant women. Men who have sex with men who have receptive anal sex should be tested for Chlamydia each year and more frequently if having multiple partners.
What is the treatment? Treatment for Chlamydia is a one-dose antibiotic. After the treatment, it is necessary to abstain from sex for at least seven days to give the antibiotic time to kill the bacteria. The treatment is the same for men and women. If you have a current sex partner, you should not have sex with that person until at least seven days after they have been treated. It is very important to tell all of your sexual partners from at least the last two months so they can receive treatment as well. Repeat infection is common if treatment is not adequately given to partners. About three months after treatment, your provider should retest for Chlamydia to make sure treatment is adequate and re-infection has not occurred.
Condoms can help reduce your risk of getting STDs when used correctly. When using condoms, always check the expiration date and follow directions on the packaging label. The surest way to prevent Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from oral, vaginal and anal sex or to be in a monogamous relationship with someone who you know is free of infections. Make sure you get tested and have your sexual partners tested as well to avoid transmission.
To make a STD appointment, please call the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, extension 4001 or 4220. For more information about STDs, please call the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, extension 4972 or 4248.