Get Tested for a Silent STD, Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STD in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is known as a "silent" disease because it seldom has symptoms.
If not treated, however, chlamydia can cause serious complications and infections for both men and women.
Chlamydia can be passed from one person to another through oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. Re-infections can occur if sexual partners are infected and not treated.
Chlamydia is common among high school and college-aged women, and less so among middle-aged and older women. The CDC says this is because women in their 30s and older usually have settled down with one partner.
About three-quarters of infected women and about half of infected men have no symptoms, the CDC says. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within one to three weeks after exposure.
In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix and the urethra. Symptoms can include unusual vaginal discharge, bleeding during intercourse or between periods, burning during urination, lower back or abdominal pain, and pain with intercourse. Men also may have pain during urination, or they may notice a burning and itching around, or discharge from, the penis, or pain and swelling in the testicles.
The infection may move inside the body if it is not treated, and cause two very serious illnesses. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In men, it can cause epididymitis, an inflammation of the tube that carries the sperm from the testes. Both of these illnesses can lead to infertility.
The bacteria can cause an inflamed rectum from anal intercourse; an inflammation of the lining of the eye ("pink eye") if the bacteria is present during birth; and a throat infection from oral sex with an infected partner.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, talk to your health care provider.
Treatment and prevention
Current medical guidelines recommend that all sexually active women younger than 25 be screened annually for chlamydia. For women older than 25, screening is based on overall risk and exposure. Your health care provider will first screen for chlamydia with a culture during a pelvic exam, a swab test (for men) or a urine test. If you are infected with Chlamydia trachomatis, your doctor will give you a prescription for an antibiotic. A pregnant woman also can be treated for a chlamydia infection with antibiotics. The most commonly used medications are a single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline, although this is not prescribed for pregnant women. Re-infection is common and can occur within a few months of treatment. Because of this, routine screening is still recommended after treatment.
To prevent chlamydia, experts offer these recommendations:
Always use male latex condoms correctly during vaginal, anal and oral intercourse/sex.
Don't engage in unprotected sex unless both parties have had a thorough STD exam and testing.
Know your partner’s sexual disease history.
Infected men and women who have no symptoms may pass the bacteria on to their sex partners without knowing it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH recommends that if you have multiple sex partners, and especially if you are a woman younger than 25, you should be tested for chlamydia regularly, even if you have no symptoms.
Getting a regular checkup is one of the main ways you can help prevent serious problems from chlamydia.