Chlamydia: Symptoms, treatment, and causes

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It affects both men and women and is spread during sexual contact.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, there were over 1.5 million cases of chlamydia in the United States. A rate of 478.8 cases per 100,000 population, which has been increasing since 2001.

Since 1994, chlamydia has been the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) reported to the CDC. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of chlamydia.

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Chlamydia is 50 times more common than syphilis and more than three times more common than gonorrhea.

Most people with chlamydia do not show symptoms.

Chlamydia has been known to cause serious and sometimes permanent damage to the reproductive system.

Chlamydia can be spread to an infant during childbirth, potentially causing an eye infection or pneumonia.

Chlamydia is a treatable infection and requires the use of prescribed antibiotics by both sexual partners.

Symptoms

woman in abdominal pain
Abdominal pain is a potential symptom of chlamydia.

Although most people with chlamydia do not exhibit symptoms, they may start to appear 5 to 10 days after contracting the infection.

Chlamydia symptoms in women

These may include:

abdominal pain

large quantities of vaginal discharge that may be foul-smelling and yellow

bleeding between periods

low-grade fever

painful intercourse, bleeding after intercourse

burning with urination

swelling in the vagina or around the anus

needing to urinate more often or discomfort with urinating

Chlamydia symptoms in men

These may include:

pain and burning with urination

penile discharge (pus, watery, or milky discharge)

testicle swelling and tenderness

If the rectum is affected in men or women, it can cause anal irritation. Most people, though, have no symptoms at all.

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Treatment

Treatment of chlamydia is very important because, if left untreated, it can cause long-term health consequences, including infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

Antibiotics are effective in treating chlamydia if the patient follows the doctor’s instructions. In most cases, they will be in pill form. Repeat testing 3 to 4 months after treatment may be recommended, depending on risk factors.

Treatments for chlamydia may include:

Azithromycin: The patient receives just one dose.

Doxycycline: The patient usually takes the pills for 1 week. It is important that the course is completed to ensure the infection does not return.

Some patients, such as pregnant women, may be given alternative antibiotics. Doxycycline or tetracycline may affect the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Azithromycin has been shown to be safe and effective.

The following antibiotics are alternatives recommended by the CDC:

erythromycin

levofloxacin

ofloxacin

Some people might experience side effects after taking antibiotics, including:

diarrhea

stomach pain

gastrointestinal issues

nausea

In most cases, the side effects will be mild. Patients taking doxycycline might have a skin rash if they are exposed to sunlight. If the chlamydia is not treated, approximately 10 to 15 percent of women will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Treatment of men is equally as important. If it is left untreated, chlamydia can lead to epididymitis and reactive arthritis.

Depending on the test used to diagnose chlamydia, a person may also be treated for gonorrhea because these two bacteria often occur together.

Diagnosis

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