Chlamydia: What you didn’t know about silent STIs?
An Introduction To The Silent Killer: Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis (CT). It is spread via vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Symptoms may not appear right away, but they can include burning while urinating, pain during intercourse, bleeding between menstrual cycles, and discharge from the vagina. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo implants outside of the uterus), pelvic inflammatory disease, and chronic pelvic pain.
There are two types of chlamydial infections: acute and chronic. Acute chlamydial infection occurs after exposure to the bacterium. Symptoms may appear within 2-8 weeks. Chronic chlamydial infection often goes undiagnosed.
The Transmission of CT Infection
The transmission of Chlamydia occurs when bacteria enter the genital tract through unprotected sex. Most people who have Chlamydia do not even know they have it. Chlamydia is extremely contagious and gets passed between partners who have never had any symptoms.
A small percentage of women become pregnant after contracting Chlamydia and passing the infection to their unborn child. Infants born to mothers with Chlamydia have an increased risk of developing pneumonia and eye infections.
- Sexual intercourse: The only way to contract chlamydia is if you have unprotected sex with someone who already has it. CT spreads via genital contact with infected secretions, including semen and vaginal fluids.
- Oral sex: Infection may also occur if the penis comes into direct contact with the mouth, especially in an individual who has not had proper oral hygiene practices. A person could unknowingly transmit chlamydia orally after performing cunnilingus or fellatio. Infected sperm cells travel through the bloodstream to infect organs and reproductive systems.
- Contaminated water supplies: Chlamydia is easily contracted from contaminated drinking water. If you drink untreated water while having anal sex, you are at risk of contracting chlamydia. You’ll need to boil it for five minutes before consuming it. The CDC recommends boiling water for 20 minutes.
- Touching genitals without washing hands afterward: You can get chlamydia from touching your own genitals before washing your hands thoroughly. Chlamydia can survive on skin surfaces for hours. Wash your genitals well after any sexual activity.
- Sharing needles: Transmission occurs when using drugs and sharing needles. Needles can be reused many times. To prevent spreading infection, use clean syringes with a new needle each time you inject yourself.
- Non-sexual transmission: There is also some evidence that people can spread chlamydia by coughing or sneezing on others. Avoiding bodily fluids can help prevent getting chlamydia.
- Other ways: People can spread chlamydia through blood transfusions, organ transplants, childbirth, breastfeeding, or tattooing. Sexually active women should go regularly for screening. Women who have had two or more partners in the last year or men with multiple partners in their lifetime should also be tested.
Understanding the various symptoms of CT Infection
The first symptom of CT is often a burning sensation while urinating. Other symptoms may include pain or discomfort during intercourse, painful urination, bleeding between menstrual cycles, and discharge from the vagina. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, and even death.
Symptoms of Chlamydia Infection
- Painful urination
- Burning sensation during urination
- Blood in urine
- Discharge from penis or vagina
- Vaginal discharge
- Lower abdominal pain
- Painful intercourse
- Pelvic tenderness
- Difficulty passing urine
- Frequent urination
- Abdominal cramps
Symptoms in men commonly include:
- Feeling of burning while urinating
- Penis discharge that is yellow or green
- Inflammation of the lower abdomen
- Symptoms of testicular pain
Women to experience the following symptoms:
- Sexual intercourse that is painful (dyspareunia)
- A discharge of vaginal fluid
- Feeling of burning while urinating
- Lower abdominal pain
- Cervicitis refers to an inflammation of the cervix
- The bleeding that occurs between periods
What are the various risk factors for Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is not contagious but rather a sexually transmitted disease. Since chlamydia cannot be passed from person-to-person, risk factors are mainly associated with sexual activity. A woman who is pregnant can pass the infection along to her unborn child. Other high-risk groups include men and women between 13-25 years old, people with HIV/AIDS, those who have had an abortion, especially if they were under 18 at the time; and anyone who has ever been diagnosed with genital warts.
What are the precautions for chlamydia?
There are ways to prevent getting CT. You should always use condoms if you are engaging in any type of sexual activity. Condoms can prevent and reduce the likelihood of contracting CT. You should also never share needles or syringes with anyone else. This can help prevent the spread of the bacteria.
There are also antiseptics that clean the area around the penis. These products help decrease the risk of spreading the bacteria. Finally, it is important to not have unprotected sex with someone who is sick. Sexually active people should get their tests regularly to check for CT.
Is CT Infection common in individuals?
CT is the most commonly diagnosed bacterial sexually transmitted infection worldwide. CT infections affect men and women equally, and both sexes may transmit the disease to their sexual partners. In 2013, approximately 1.2 million cases of CT were reported globally, including 584 000 among females and 618 000 among males.
There have been several studies conducted in India regarding the prevalence of CT in the general population. A small study in 2000 showed that 2.8% of the female students attending colleges in Delhi had evidence of CT infection. Another study in 2007-08 showed that 4.9% of the married couples attending STD clinics in Chennai had a CT infection.
Since then, there have been no published data on CT prevalence in India. However, a recent study conducted at a tertiary care hospital in New Delhi between January 2014 and December 2015 revealed that 12.4% (n14/112) of the patients who presented with urethritis tested positive for CT.
The high prevalence of CT in India suggests that CT is likely to remain a significant public health problem in the country. Efforts should focus on developing effective strategies to curb the spread of CT among the general population.
Preventing Chlamydial Infection: There are several ways to prevent chlamydial infection:
- Using condoms during sexual activity. Condoms provide protection against STIs including chlamydial infection, but they do not protect against viral STDs.
- Not having sex until after using contraception.
- Consistent use of barrier methods (condoms, dental dams, diaphragms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges, etc.) during sexual activity.
- Having regular Pap tests. A Pap test looks at cells taken from the cervix and helps detect changes in the cervix that could indicate HPV, HIV, or chlamydial infection early. Women should get Pap tests once per year beginning at the age of 21 years old.
- Get your tests regularly for both HPV and chlamydial infection.
- Avoid high-risk behaviors (frequent drug use, smoking, alcohol abuse, sex work, etc.).
- Take steps to avoid getting in contact with people who have a chlamydial infection.
The Final Takeaways,
- How do I know if I have Chlamydia?
If you think you might have chlamydia, talk to your doctor about testing. Your doctor will do some tests and will then take a sample of fluid from your cervix and send it to a lab for analysis. A test called a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) is the best way to diagnose chlamydia.
- What to do if I have Chlamydia?
If you think you have chlamydia, tell your doctor right away. You’ll need to start treatment before any complications occur. Treatment for chlamydia includes antibiotics. Talk to your doctor about what kind of antibiotic you should use.