Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium, Clamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild to absent, serious complications can arise. Theses complications can cause irreversible damage, including infertility, which can occur silently before a woman even recognizes the problem. It can also cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.
In the United States Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease. In 2004 929,482 cases were reported to the CDC from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Under reporting is very common because most people with chlamydia are not aware of their infections and do not seek medical testing. An estimated 2.8 million Americans are infected with chlamydia each year. Women are commonly re-infected if their sex partners are not treated.
Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be passed from and infected mother to her baby during childbirth.
This is known as a silent disease because about 3/4 of infected women and half of infected men have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure.
Women may have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. When the infection spreads further into the reproductive tract some women may have lower abdominal pain, lower abdominal pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. Chlamydial infection of the cervix can spread to the rectum.
Men with no signs or symptoms might have discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when they urinate. Men might also have burning and itching around the opening of their penis. Pain and swelling of the testicles are uncommon.
Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline are the most common treatment. All sexual partners should be evaluated and treated. Otherwise re-infection is possible.
Latex male condoms, when used correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of chlamydia. Screening is recommended annually for sexually active individuals.