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Chlamydia: what it is, symptoms and how it gets caught

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, that can affect both men and women. In most cases the infection is asymptomatic, however it is also possible to notice some symptoms in some cases, such as abnormal vaginal discharge or burning when urinating, for example.

The infection can appear after having unprotected sexual contact and, for this reason, in men, the infection is more frequent in the urethra, rectum or throat, while in women the most affected sites are the cervix or rectum .

The disease can be identified only by evaluating the symptoms presented, but there are also tests that help confirm the diagnosis. Thus, whenever there is a suspicion of having contracted chlamydia, it is very important to go to the general practitioner or an infectious disease specialist to confirm the diagnosis and initiate the appropriate treatment, which is usually done with antibiotics.

Chlamydia symptoms

Chlamydia symptoms can appear 1 to 3 weeks after unprotected sex, however even if there are no apparent signs and symptoms, the person can transmit the bacteria. The main signs and symptoms of chlamydia in women are:

  • Pain or burning when urinating;
  • Vaginal discharge, similar to pus;
  • Pain or bleeding during intimate contact;
  • Pelvic pain;
  • Bleeding outside the menstrual period.

If a woman’s chlamydia infection is not identified, it is possible for the bacteria to spread through the uterus and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which is a major cause of infertility and miscarriage in women. Learn more about DIP.

The symptoms of infection in men are similar, and there may be pain or burning when urinating, discharge from the penis, pain and swelling in the testicles, and inflammation of the urethra. In addition, if left untreated, the bacteria can cause orchitis, which is the inflammation of the testicles, which can interfere with sperm production. See more details about orchitis.

Cause of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is an infectious disease caused by bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, which can be transmitted through sexual intercourse without a condom, whether oral, vaginal or rectal. Thus, people who have multiple sexual partners are at greater risk of having the disease.

In addition, chlamydia can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth, when the pregnant woman has the infection and has not been properly treated.

Risks of Chlamydia in Pregnancy

Chlamydia infection during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, fetal death and endometritis. As this disease can pass to the baby during normal delivery, it is important to carry out tests that can diagnose this disease during prenatal care and follow the treatment indicated by the obstetrician.

The baby affected during delivery can have complications such as conjunctivitis or chlamydial pneumonia and these diseases can also be treated with antibiotics given by the pediatrician.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of chlamydia is made by the urologist or gynecologist based on the observation of the signs and symptoms presented by the person. However, to confirm the infection, laboratory tests are usually requested, especially the analysis of vaginal or penile secretions and urine tests, to identify the presence of the bacteria.

Since chlamydia does not cause symptoms in some cases, it is advised that people over the age of 25, with an active sex life and with more than 1 partner have regular screening for STIs and that women get the preventive screening at least once per year or as directed by the gynecologist.

After getting pregnant, it is also advised to be tested for chlamydia and other infections, to check if there is any infection at the time and, thus, be able to start treatment soon afterwards to reduce the chance of transmitting to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth .

How is the treatment done

Treatment for chlamydia is using doctor-prescribed antibiotics such as single-dose Azithromycin or Doxycycline for 7 days, or as directed by your doctor. It is recommended to keep the treatment even if there are no more apparent signs and symptoms, as this way it is possible to guarantee that the bacteria has been eliminated.

It is important that the treatment is carried out by both the person carrying the bacteria and the sexual partner, even if the sexual contact was made with a condom. In addition, it is recommended that you do not have sexual intercourse during treatment to avoid a recurrence of the infection. See more details on chlamydia treatment.

With proper treatment it is possible to completely eradicate the bacteria, but if other complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility arise, they can be permanent.

Is there a cure for chlamydia?

Chlamydia can be easily cured with the use of antibiotics for 7 days. However, to ensure healing, during this period it is advised to avoid unprotected intimate contact.

Even in people with HIV, the infection can be cured in the same way, with no need for other treatment or hospitalization.

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