Chlamydia: What to Know, Where to Get Help

The possibility of getting a sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia, can be very scary at first, but understanding the facts can potentially help prevent further health complications. Chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States, numbering about 1 million cases every year including both men and women. It is important to note, however, that this STD can be treated and cured and can only cause major complications if left untreated.

How It Spreads

Chlamydia can be spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The only full-proof way to completely prevent the transmission of chlamydia is to refrain from all types of sexual contact. Having more than one sexual partner can increase your chance of getting chlamydia. However, the risk can also be greatly reduced if a condom is used during every sexual encounter.

One common reason this particular STD infects so many people is because, unlike several other types of STD’s, chlamydia can show no symptoms. This is why it is especially important for all sexually active individuals to regularly take an STD test (once a year is recommended).

Symptoms

While many cases of chlamydia show no symptoms, listed below are possible symptoms men and women with this STD can show:

Symptoms in men:

  • Burning sensation while peeing
  • Pain, bleeding or discharge in the rectum
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Sensitivity in testicles

Symptoms in women:

  • Burning while peeing
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal discharge/ abnormal bleeding
  • Pain, bleeding or discharge in the rectum
  • Pain in the back/abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Diagnosis

Clinicians are able to diagnose chlamydia by taking a vaginal cotton swab sample for women or taking urine samples for men. Urine samples can also serve as an alternative to cotton swab samples for women. These tests typically take a few days to a week to come back with results.

Different STD’s are sometimes tested for differently, so if you’re wanting your doctor to test for several types, make sure to verbally express this. It is not always routine to test for all STD’s across the board.

Treatment

Antibiotics are the most common treatment option for chlamydia. Make sure to refer your sexual partners to the doctor to get tested as well—if they have chlamydia, they will need to get on antibiotics also. This medication is not meant to be shared, so it is vital that all patients get individually treated.

If taken correctly, antibiotics always work to get rid of this infection.

However, chlamydia is known for infecting an individual more than once, making it very important to go back to the doctor for a follow-up visit three months after getting on antibiotics. The infection needs to be completely treated before participating in sexual intercourse. Typically, the patient needs to avoid sex for a week after getting on antibiotics. Keep an open discussion with your doctor to ensure the infection is gone and it stays that way.

If Not Treated

Chlamydia can cause very serious health complications if left untreated, especially in women. Women can get pelvic inflammatory disease, a disease that appears asymptomatic at the onset, but can cause life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, pain in the pelvic area, or an inability to get pregnant. Additionally, if a woman is pregnant when contracting chlamydia, this infection can be passed down to the child.

Because of the serious long-term health risks for women, it is recommended that sexually active women, especially those under the age of 25, get tested yearly.

The risk for men is not as serious. Sometimes, men can have short-term pain and fever due to the infection, but there are no long-term complications that can result.

I Want to Get Tested

If you are insured and regularly see a certain healthcare provider, that is a great place to start. It’s always smart to check with your insurance provider to make sure tests, such as this, are covered.

If money is an issue, many clinics provide free STD tests. Refer to the resources listed below for affordable STD test options:

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Awareness and prevention are key when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. While contracting an STD like chlamydia can be unsettling, taking care of it as soon as possible can make a huge difference.

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