The problem with chlamydia is that it is an insidious disease because studies have shown that up to 80% of people who have chlamydia have no apparent clinical symptoms. In other words, anyone could be walking around infected with chlamydia and be none the wiser.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacteria. It’s full name is Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is reported to be the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in the USA. Figures cited are standing at 5% in adults and 10% in sexually active teenagers.
How is chlamydia transmitted?
The other common way it is transmitted is from an infected mother to her baby who contacts the bacteria during the birth process.
It cannot be transmitted via casual contact eg sneezing or coughing or shaking hands with someone with chlamydia. Symptoms of chlamydia (if they do occur) are usually apparent 1-3 weeks after the first exposure.
Who is predisposed to getting chlamydia?
People who have multiple sex partners are at a higher risk of catching chlamydia. Babies with mothers who have chlamydia are also at risk. African Americans seem to have a higher incidence of chlamydia. This may or may not be reflective of their socio-economic status skewing the results their way. Teenagers who are sexually active are also at a higher risk – this is probably due to the fact that a lot of them have multiple sex partners.
Chlamydia symptoms in women
A high percentage up to 80% of women do not have any overt symptoms of chlamydia. Those that do complain of vaginal discharge, pain during urination and bleeding after intercourse or having ‘spot bleeding’ episodes in between periods.
Again, up to 50% of men have no outward symptoms at all. Those who report of symptoms have pain during urination, penile discharge and some have testicular pain from inflamed ducts.
Chlamydia symptoms in babies/children
This often manifests as conjunctivitis – especially in babies who have mothers who are chlamydia positive and have been exposed during the birth process.
The consequences of undiagnosed Chlamydia infections
If the infection goes undiagnosed, what often happens in women is that the organism ascends the uterine tract moving up from the vagina to the womb/uterus and thereafter into the Fallopian tubes and ovaries. Pelvic inflammatory disease (which is what the disease is called when it reaches this stage) is the major cause for infertility in women, chronic pelvic pain and it can lead to other nasties like abdominal abscesses and blood poisoning.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
In the past cervical swabs (for women) and urethral swabs (for men) were the mainstays for diagnosing chlamydial infections. However, these tests are not completely accurate and negative test results does not necessarily mean that you do not have chlamydia. Recently there have been urine tests that have come out as an alternative to the swabs and are less intrusive in nature.
How is chlamydia treated?
Antibiotics like doxycycline are the treatments of choice for treating chlamydia. There is a high cure rate for chlamydia treated with these antibiotics – up to 95% are rid of the organism from one course of antibiotics alone. Note that if you are diagnosed with chlamydia and start treatment, your sexual partner(s) should also be notified and they too should start a course of antibiotics.