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Chlamydia Infections - What Are They?

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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and is usually asymptomatic.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Raveendran S R

Published At November 29, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 22, 2024

Introduction:

It is a known fact that chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). This is a ubiquitous STI and a perilous one because most people do not even know that they are infected with chlamydia. Chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics and prevented with barrier methods of contraception like condoms. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the united states. Read on to learn more about chlamydia and its prevention measures.

What Is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be easily cured if detected and treated early. Left undetected and untreated, chlamydia can lead to long-term complications such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic infections. This bacteria cannot be transmitted through casual contact like hand shaking or drinking from the same glass. Only sexual intercourse, such as anal, oral, or vaginal sex, can transmit the bacteria.

What Are the Causes of Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a very common STI, especially among young adults. Chlamydia can infect both men and women. Chlamydia is often asymptomatic, meaning that people with the infection may not have symptoms. Most people get chlamydia from having sex with someone infected. Chlamydia can also be passed on from someone with no symptoms. Chlamydia is common among sexually active people, especially those who do not use condoms every time they have sex. Having chlamydia more than once can be dangerous. If someone has chlamydia and are treated, they can not get it again, and if left untreated, it is harder to treat the second time.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?

People with chlamydia often have no symptoms. If they have symptoms, they usually show up two to ten days after exposure to the bacteria. Chlamydia is diagnosed in women who are being tested for STIs during their yearly pelvic exam. It is often diagnosed in men who have a urethral swab done for another issue, and the chlamydia test comes back positive. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, but it can cause severe complications if left untreated. The most common symptom of chlamydia is an abnormal discharge from the genitals, which can be clear, yellow, or green. This is sometimes accompanied by pain when urinating.

Chlamydia symptoms in women:

  • Pain during sex.

  • Lower back pain.

  • Abdominal cramps.

  • Spotting between periods.

  • Discharge from the vagina.

  • Pain during periods.

  • Pain during urination

  • Itching or burning sensation in the vagina.

  • Fever.

Chlamydia symptoms in men:

  • Cloudy penile discharge.

  • Pain during urination.

  • Itching or burning sensation in the penis.

  • Swelling and pain in testicles.

The other parts affected by chlamydia through unprotected sex are the eyes, throat, and anus.

  • In the anus, there is a discharge and discomfort.

  • In the eyes, there is a discharge, pain, and redness.

  • In the throat, usually asymptomatic.

How Is Chlamydia Diagnosed?

This disease is often asymptomatic in the beginning stages of the infection. It also has no noticeable symptoms in about half of all cases. This makes it difficult for people to know whether or not they have chlamydia and increases the risk of spreading it to other people. The most common test for chlamydia is called a nucleic acid amplification test. This test detects the presence of chlamydia bacteria in a sample of body fluid. Chlamydia is diagnosed by testing a sample of cells from the cervix, urethra, or rectum or a fluid sample from the end of the penis. Women can also be tested by taking a swab from their cervix or urine. A healthcare provider typically performs the test in a laboratory setting.

What Is the Treatment for Chlamydia Infections?

In most cases, chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics like Azithromycin or Doxycycline for seven to ten days. Antibiotics are given for seven days for chlamydia. It is important to take all the medication as per the doctor's advice, even if someone feel better. Barrier methods of contraception like condoms are necessary to avoid transmitting chlamydia to partners.

How Is Chlamydia Prevented?

The only way to avoid contracting chlamydia is not to have sex. But for those who are sexually active, the only way to avoid contracting the disease is by practicing safe sex. Using condoms consistently and correctly can help reduce the risk of contracting chlamydia. Do not share sex toys, as it will increase the risk of chlamydia infection. Using dental dams during oral sex will also reduce chlamydia infection. It is also important to avoid having sexual intercourse with multiple partners, as this can also increase chlamydia infection. If someone is sexually active, getting tested for chlamydia regularly is important so that they can be treated early if they develop an infection.

How Chlamydia Affects Cisgender, Transgender and Nonbinary People?

Chlamydia infections are a serious health concern for cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary individuals. Several factors contribute to the high rates of chlamydia infections among cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary individuals.

  • Many young people are engaging in risky sexual behaviors, such as not using condoms or not getting testing for STIs regularly.

  • There is a lack of knowledge about STIs and how to protect oneself from them.

  • Structural barriers to accessing quality sexual health care include lack of insurance, limited access to providers, and stigma.

Chlamydia is a curable infection. If left untreated, however, it can lead to serious health complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. It is, therefore, important for cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary individuals to get tested for STIs regularly and seek treatment if they test positive.

Conclusion:

Chlamydia can be a severe infection, with many unaware of the symptoms and how easily it can be transmitted. It is so important for people to take steps to avoid infection, so it is a great idea for an individual to get tested regularly and to have an open discussion with their partner about what they both want from a sexual relationship. It is important to perceive the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options of chlamydia so they can take action or get treatment as soon as possible if they tested positive for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How Do Chlamydia Infections Look Like?

Chlamydia infections often have no noticeable early symptoms. Generally, symptoms occur only after several weeks of having sexual intercourse with a partner who is infected with chlamydia.  The development of unusual sores in the vagina, penis, or rectum, smelly discharge, burning sensation while peeing, and bleeding in between periods are some of the noticeable signs of chlamydia infections.

2.

Does Chlamydia Infection Go Away if Left Untreated?

No, chlamydia infection does not get cured by itself if left untreated. In some cases, the symptoms would disappear but the infection persists and would get activated causing a recurrence of chlamydia infection. A sexually active person with chlamydia infection has a high chance of transmitting it to his/her partner. Also, untreated chlamydia infection leads to several other health problems.

3.

How Long Can You Be a Carrier of Chlamydia?

 
With proper antibiotic treatment, chlamydia infection gets cured within one to three weeks. In untreated conditions, the duration of active chlamydia infection varies widely. It remains active for nearly two months and could remain dormant for nearly 15 months. Chances of recurrent infections are high in such individuals.

4.

Can Chlamydia Infection Be Transmitted Non-sexually?

 
No, chlamydia infections are not transmitted through casual contact like sharing food and drinks, formal kissing, holding or shaking hands, hugging, sneezing, using common restrooms, and sitting on the toilet seat. They are only spread through unprotected sexual contact.

5.

How to Know if Chlamydia Infection Has Been Cured?

Chlamydia infection is caused by bacteria and it gets cured by taking proper antibiotic treatment. The infection gets cured within a few weeks on completion of the antibiotic course. A negative culture of the test sample indicates that the chlamydia infection is completely cured. However, the full antibiotic regime has to be completed even if the symptoms disappear for complete recovery.

6.

What Happens if Chlamydia Infection Persists for Too Long Without Treatment?

 
Untreated chlamydia infections in women spread to the inner reproductive parts causing pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID). They cause pelvic pain and further block fallopian tubes leading to Infertility. In men, it leads to severe fever and pain in the testicular tubes. Untreated chlamydia infections in both genders increase the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV infections.

7.

Can a Person Test Negative for Chlamydia Even if His/Her Partner Tests Positive?

 
It is possible for a person to test negative for chlamydia even if his/her partner has chlamydia infections due to various reasons. Chlamydia bacteria takes nearly 14 days to cause infection. The person could have recently contracted the bacteria, and the test would have been done before the progression of the infection or also due to inadequate collection of samples from that person. A negative test does not mean an absence of infection. It is advised to repeat the tests after some weeks and follow safety measures till then.

8.

How Do You Get Infected With Chlamydia Trachomatis?

Chlamydia infections spread from person to person through unprotected sexual contact. A person is infected with Chlamydia trachomatis while having anal, vaginal, or oral sex with a person who has chlamydia infection. The infection is transmitted even in absence of ejaculation A pregnant mother infected with chlamydia could transmit the infection during childbirth to the baby.

9.

What Are the Complications of Chlamydia Trachomatis Infection?

Chlamydia infection occurs in both men and women, but its complications are more severe in women. If left untreated could permanently damage the reproductive parts in women. The chances of getting pregnant reduce with severe chlamydia infection.  It causes ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

10.

Does Chlamydia Trachomatis Infection Completely Get Cured?

 
Chlamydia infection is completely curable if proper antibiotic therapy is followed. However, the chance of getting reinfected is high in case of having unprotected sexual contact with a partner who has an active infection. The use of protective measures like condoms and avoiding sex during the presence of infection helps in preventing the spread of chlamydia infection.
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Dr. Raveendran S R
Dr. Raveendran S R

Sexology

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