Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacterium.
How is Chlamydia transmitted?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacterium. Symptoms are often mild or absent. Approximately 75% of women and 50% of infected men have no symptoms. Chlamydia is so common in young women that by age 30, 50% of sexually active women have evidence that they have had Chlamydia at some time during their lives.
What are the symptoms?
- For men: discharge from the penis and a burning sensation when urinating. Men might also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis or pain and swelling in the testicles, or both.
- For women: lower abdominal pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, and bleeding in between menstrual periods.
- Symptoms may appear within 1-3 weeks of exposure. The disease is diagnosed by a laboratory test, run on a specimen collected from an infected site (either cervix or penis). A PAP test is not a test for chlamydia; it is a test for abnormal cervical cells.
Complications of Chlamydia
If left untreated, chlamydial infections can lead to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences.
- Up to 40% of infected women may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the reproductive organs. PID sometimes requires hospitalization. It is likely to be a significant cause of infertility.
- Men can develop scarring of the urethra, and sometimes the infection can spread to the epididymis, a part of the testicle. This causes pain, fever, and potentially, infertility.
- Like the disease itself, the damage that chlamydia causes is often “silent.” Anyone who has sex can be exposed to chlamydia. The more partners a person has, the greater the risk of infection. Sexually active teens and young women are especially susceptible to chlamydia because of the characteristics of the cells that form in the lining of the cervical canal.
The SMC Health & Wellness Center provides STI testing for all full-time undergraduate students attending SMC. Testing is covered under most insurance benefits and we also offer a self-pay option for students seeking confidential results. Please call the Health & Wellness Center to schedule an appointment at (925) 631.4254.
Most county health departments have special STI clinics. Private health care providers also treat STI.
The treatment of this infection is an antibiotic. All sex partners must be treated, or the infection will return.
How can Chlamydia be prevented?
- Condoms need to be used correctly every time you have sex. A condom placed on the penis before starting sex and worn until the penis is withdrawn can help protect both the male and female partner. A female condom can be used if a male condom cannot be used appropriately.
- Women on the pill or other methods of contraception need to use a condom every time they have sex to prevent STDs.
- Although condoms prevent most STD transmission, they are not completely protective. Sores and lesions of other STDs on infected men and women may be present on areas not covered by the condom, resulting in transmission of infection to a new person.
- Limiting the number of sexual contacts will also reduce your risk of chlamydia and other STDs.
- And get a screening test for chlamydia every year, even if you use condoms, just to be safe. If you think you are infected, avoid sexual contact, and see a health care provider immediately.
If you are told you are infected, notify all your sex partners immediately. Do not have sex until seven days AFTER you and your partner have completed the treatment.