Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The cause of it is the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
Chlamydial infection is another common, sexually transmitted infection. This infection affects around 61 million people around the world. However, it may be even more since chlamydia often goes undiagnosed. This happens because, most of the time, it doesn’t cause any symptoms. It affects men and women almost equally.
The symptoms of this disease mostly include genitourinary manifestations (in your genitals). It can also affect the eyes, joints, and lungs. The treatment is simple, but you can get chlamydia again after treating it. This is one of the reasons that makes it so common.
In the following article, we will discuss, in simple terms, the essential topics of chlamydial infection. A doctor will also answer the most frequently asked questions about this condition, including chlamydia symptoms, complications, and treatment.
You will also find the answer to some non-medical questions like “does chlamydia means my partner cheated?”. If you are interested, keep on reading, and you will find yourself with the necessary knowledge about this disease.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is not actually the name of the disease. It is the name of a group of microorganisms that cause various infections. There are two types: Chlamydia (like Chlamydia trachomatis) and the Chlamydophila (like Chlamydophila pneumonia and Chlamydophila psitacii).
Chlamydia trachomatis is the cause of the genitourinary infections that we commonly have known as chlamydia. It is considered a sexually transmitted disease. Other types of chlamydial infections are responsible for causing eye infections and lung infections like pneumonia.
The mechanism by which the bacterium infects the body is not entirely understood. However, we know that Chlamydia bacterium infects the cells of your body, getting inside them. The bacterium uses the cells to reproduce inside them. Then, these cells stop replicating, and instead, they start growing without control.
The damage of chlamydia, most of the time, is mild. The treatment is very effective and works 95% of the time if you do it correctly. However, if left untreated, it can cause several complications that we’ll discuss later.
What are the causes of chlamydia?
As we mentioned before, the cause of the infection is the Chlamydia bacterium. You can get infected by having sex with an infected person. It is easily transmitted through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. It is also transmitted by direct contact with infected tissue, like the eyes conjunctiva. This happens with the genitals too. You may get it by contact with the genitals of an infected person, even if there is no penetration.
Chlamydia can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby at the moment of birth. The risk factors of chlamydial infection include promiscuity (or having many different sexual partners) and having unprotected sex.
By having multiple sexual partners, you increase your chances of having sex with someone infected. When having unprotected sex, direct contact with an infected partner makes you infected too.
How can you prevent spreading chlamydia?
What you have to do to prevent spreading and getting chlamydia is pretty simple. Not having sex is the most effective way to prevent it. If this is a bit extreme, being monogamous is also a great way to avoid getting chlamydia.
But the most important measure you can take is using a latex condom. This way, you avoid direct contact with infected tissues while having sex. Chlamydia, most of the time, do not have symptoms, so that people require to get annual screening for STIs. The screening is usually indicated to patients with risks of STIs.
What types of birth control protect against chlamydia?
The only type of birth control that can protect you from getting chlamydia is condoms. Condoms prevent many STDs, including chlamydia. They do this by stopping contact between infected tissues and fluids. However, you can still get it by kissing and engaging in oral sex. Remember, the infection can be present in a person’s throat and eyes, too.
What are chlamydia symptoms?
The chlamydial infection has many forms of manifestations. The most common is genital infection. Genital chlamydia produces different symptoms in men and women. In both cases, chlamydia can be asymptomatic or not produce any symptoms most of the time.
Genital chlamydia in women can cause many symptoms. Some of the most common are painful sexual intercourse, vaginal discharge, and burning sensation while urinating. Some women can also experience chronic pelvic pain and bleeding. These manifestations respond to cervicitis because of chlamydia.
On the other side, symptoms in men usually include inflammation of the urethra or nongonococcal urethritis. The urethra is a sort of a tube or vessel that carries the urine from the bladder to outside the body through the vagina or penis, in females or males, respectively. This can result in painful urination and abnormal discharge from the urethra. Other symptoms include testicular pain, inflammation, and fever.
Both men and women can experience throat infection after performing oral sex to an infected person. A throat infection can produce symptoms like sore throat, cough, and fever.
– What color discharge does it produce?
Chlamydia discharge can present in two ways. It can be white in color, kind of milky discharge. It can also be yellow and pus-like. Women often experience vaginal discharge, which is entirely normal. Change in the characteristics of the vaginal fluid can mean infections like chlamydia. In the case of men, almost every discharge is considered abnormal.
– Does it have a smell?
It depends on the patient. In some cases, mostly women, chlamydia does not have any smell. It is most common for chlamydia discharge to have an odor if it is more pus-like. However, other STDs cause smelly discharge too. Consult your doctor if you happen to experience abnormal discharge.
– Can it come and go?
Not quite. Chlamydia can go most of the time, undetected as an asymptomatic infection. In 70% of the cases, it can linger for months or years before the show of chlamydia symptoms.
When symptoms appear, patients will typically get medical help and treatment. You can cure completely of chlamydia with the right treatment. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t get it again. If you continue having unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners, you are likely to have chlamydia again.
Chlamydia can also produce symptoms in other parts of your body, like the eyes or joints.
In the eye, chlamydia produces a type of chronic conjunctivitis. You can get ocular chlamydia from contact with your fingers, sharing of towels, and sneezing. Fortunately, this form of chlamydia is not so common anymore. The symptoms include swelling of the lids, redness, and ocular discharge.
In your joints, chlamydia can cause reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis is a form of swelling and inflammation of the joints as a result of bacterial infections. It is most common in men, but it can affect women too. This is also an uncommon manifestation of chlamydia.
Another manifestation of chlamydial infection is the lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV). LGV characteristics include swelling or inflammation of lymph nodes, typically inguinal or femoral.
Most of the time, it is unilateral. Another manifestation of LGV is an ulcer (open sore) or papule (skin rash) that is self-limited. In fact, most of the time, the ulcers go away before patients get medical help.
Is chlamydia worse than gonorrhea?
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both very common STDs.
STDs usually present themselves as coinfections. This means that they present themselves combined with other STD. The combination of chlamydia with gonorrhea is the most common STD coinfection there is.
Both, separately, can cause many symptoms and complications if left untreated. However, gonorrhea produces more symptoms and is more likely to have difficulties. Also, gonorrhea is less likely to be asymptomatic, and the complications appear faster if untreated.
What complications are associated with chlamydia?
Complications of untreated chlamydia infection are different in men and women. The former with untreated chlamydia can develop epididymitis, the tube’s inflammation that holds testicles in place. This causes swelling and pain. Also, the infection can affect the prostate. When it affects the prostate, men can experience painful intercourse, fever, and lower back pain.
For women, untreated infection can affect other reproductive organs. Chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a condition that affects the cervix, uterus, and ovaries. This ailment can cause pelvic pain, fever and often requires hospitalization for treatment.
Another consequence of untreated chlamydia is infertility. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of infertility in the United States. This happens because the fallopian tubes become scarred due to the infection. Scarred tubes can also make pregnancies install in incorrect places, which is a risk for the mother and the baby. This is known as ectopic pregnancy.
Remember that chlamydial infection can also pass to a baby in the moment of childbirth. In newborns, chlamydia causes eye infections and lung infections like pneumonia. Newborns with this type of pneumonia may need hospitalization to receive the right treatment.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Your doctor will first ask you about your medical history. Then, they’ll ask questions about your sexual life. This is to determine if you have risk factors for chlamydia.
After this, the doctor will ask questions about your symptoms. If your symptoms are compatible with chlamydia, you will get tested. There are multiple tests to diagnose chlamydia. The most common include nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) and cell cultures. The best method for diagnosis is NAAT.
The NAAT uses samples of fluids (like vaginal or urethral) or urine. The samples are often obtained by swabs of the vagina of women or the urethra of men. Your doctor can collect the sample, but you can also do it yourself.
For women, the best sample for diagnosis is the vaginal fluids. For men, urine samples are more common. Cell cultures can also establish a diagnosis. Cultures are more useful with other types of samples, like pharyngeal and rectal.
Regarding the screening for the disease.
Keep in mind that any sexually active person can have chlamydia. So, even if you don’t have any symptoms, your doctor may indicate chlamydia tests, especially if you have risk factors for this or any other STDs.
Doctors recommend that all women under 25 years old, who are sexually active, receive screening for this infection. This includes every woman with risk factors such as multiple sexual partners, previous STDs history, or partner with STD.
Notably, doctors recommend this screening at least once a year. Also, pregnant women should get the screening within the first trimester of pregnancy and later, in the third trimester.
Men don’t really need routine screening. Doctors indicate the screening for men who have sex with men. These men can get swabs from the urethra or the rectum. This depends on whether they had insertive or receptive intercourse.
Patients with HIV should also get their STDs screenings at least once a year.
What are the treatments for chlamydia?
Like any other bacterial infection, the treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics. The treatment with antibiotics is straightforward, and there’s no need for hospitalization.
Typically, the treatment for chlamydia includes azithromycin or doxycycline. Your doctor may prescribe a single dose of azithromycin. Another option is doxycycline twice a day for 7 to 14 days.
You must complete the treatment, even if you are feeling better. Your doctor will probably recommend that you don’t have sex at least seven days after taking the medication. This to make sure you don’t spread the disease.
Also, your doctor can recommend that your partner takes the treatment too. Remember that chlamydia can be an asymptomatic infection. So, even if your partner doesn’t have any symptoms, if you are infected, they are too.
After completing the treatment, you should be retested to make sure the infection is really gone. The screening usually takes place three months after completing the treatment.
Does chlamydia mean your partner cheated?
Not really. Although chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease, this doesn’t mean your partner is a cheater for having it. Remember, chlamydia infection is asymptomatic in 70% of the cases. So, if your partner starts having chlamydia symptoms, there’s a chance that they got it a long time ago.
There is also the possibility that you have asymptomatic chlamydia, and you are the one who passes the infection to your partner. But this doesn’t apply for long time couples. If you have been together for many years, then there is a higher possibility of cheating.
Do you have symptoms of or too many risk factors for this infection?
This tool is a Genital Chlamydia Symptoms Checker. It gathers the most important signs, symptoms, and risk factors for this infection. Therefore, the tool would help anyone who uses it to determine their symptoms because of Chlamydia. Also, it could be positive if somebody has too many risk factors for it. Notably, it is free and would only take a few minutes.