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Understanding Chlamydia Infections

Despite the increasing awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, few people actually take steps to protect themselves, or feel they are not at risk. The truth however is this, STDs in the community often exist without symptoms, leading to persistant infection or increased transmission.

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), Chlamydia is the most frequently reported infectious disease in the United States. The highest revalence (occurrance) is in persons 25 years and younger. The cause of the infection is a bacteria called Chlamydia Trachomatis and it is transmisable only by sexual intercourse.

As for clinical presentation or symptoms, most infected patients are actually asymptomatic (without symptoms). In women, other presentations include abnormal vaginal discharge, irregular menstrual bleeding or lower abdominal pain. in men, for those who have symptoms, penile discharge or pain on urination may be common complaints.

The CDC as wel as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that ALL sexually active women aged 25 years and younger be screened at least annually or whenever they feel they are at risk. Testing invlves either a vaginal/cerical swab test which can identify the bacterial DNA. Alternatively. a urine test can be ordered as a screening test for those reluctant or unable to have a complete pelvic exam.

For the male, a penile urethral swap may be taken or a similar urine test ordered.

Treatment of chlamdia is usually with oral medications, in either a single dose (Zithromax) or 7 day treatment plan (doxycycline).Persons treated for chamydia should abstain from sexual intercourse until 7 days after single dose therapy or until completion of a 7 day therapy. No sex should be undertaken until both partners have been tested and/or treated. According to the CDC, because of high rates of reinfection, all women with chlamydial infection should be retested approximately 3 months after treatment.

Chlamydia is a “dangerous” bacteria simply because of it’s lack of symptoms in the majority of cases. For this reason, the infection can persist and lead to chlamyia associated comlications. In the female, Pelvic Inflamatory Disease (tubal infection) can result from untreated chlamydia and lead to infertility or chronic pelvic pain. In the male, persistant infection may lead to prostate infection or testicular infection leading to similar problems with fertility. During pregnancy, chlamydial infection in the women has been linked with preterm labor, preterm rupture of the amniotic sac or uterine infection. At delivery, if the newborn delivers through an infected birth canal, ocular (eye) infection could result with permanent damage resulting. That is the reason routine testing for this infection is done as part of prenatal care.

Chlamydia is one of the most frequent bacterial sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. The key to prevent infection is the use of a barrier method of birth control (latex or polyurethane condoms), monogamy, and of course,education. Open communication between sexual partners and between the individual and their health care provider help ensure proper testing, diagnosis, and treatment for this as well as other infectious diseases.