What is chlamydial
Chlamydial ("kla-MID-ee-uhl") infection is a curable sexually
transmitted disease (STD), which is caused by a bacterium called
Chlamydia trachomatis. You can get genital chlamydial infection
during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual contact with an infected
partner. It can cause serious problems in men and women as well as
in newborn babies of infected mothers.
is one of the most widespread bacterial STDs in the United States.
The U.S. Centers fro Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated
that more than 2 million people are infected each year. Health
economists estimate that chlamydial infections and other problems
they cause cost Americans more than $2 billion a year.
What are the
symptoms of This STD?
Because chlamydial infection does not make most people sick, you
can have it and not know it. Those who do have symptoms may have an
abnormal discharge (mucus or pus) from the vagina or penis or pain
while urinating. These early symptoms may be very mild. Symptoms
usually appear within one to three weeks after being infected.
Because the symptoms may be mild or not exist at all, you might not
seek care and get treated.
The infection may
move inside the body if it is not treated. There, it can cause
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and epidydimitis in men,
two very serious illnesses.
C. trachomatis can
cause inflamed rectum and inflammation of the lining of the eye
("pink eye"). The bacteria can infect the throat from oral sexual
contact with an infected partner.
How Does the
Doctor Diagnose Chlamydial Infection?
Chlamydial infection is easily confused with gonorrhea because the
symptoms of both infections are similar and the infections can occur
together, though rarely.
The most reliable
ways to find out whether the infection is chlamydial are through
laboratory tests. Usually, a doctor or other heath care worker will
send a sample of pus from the vagina or penis to a laboratory that
will look for the bacteria.
The urine test does
not require a pelvic exam or swabbing of the penis. Results from the
urine test are available within 24 hours.
How is Chlamydial
If you are infected with C. trachomatis, your doctor or other
health care worker will probably give you a prescription for an
antibiotic such as azithromycin (taken for one day only) or
doxycycline (taken for seven days). Or, you might get a prescription
for another antibiotic such as erythromycin or ofloxacin.
Doctors may treat
pregnant women with azithromycin or erythromycin, or sometimes with
amoxicillin. Penicillin, which doctors often use to treat some STDs,
won't cure chlamydial infections.
If you have
- Take all of the prescribed medicine, even after symptoms disappear
- If the symptoms do not disappear within one to two weeks after
finishing the medicine, go to your
doctor or clinic again.
- It is very important to tell your sex partners that you have
chlamydial infection so that they can be
tested and treated
What Can Happen if
the Infection is Not Treated?
In women, untreated chlamydial infections can lead to PID. In men,
untreated chlamydial infections may lead to pain or swelling in the
scrotal area, which is a sign of inflammation of a part of the male
reproductive system located near the testicles known as the
epididymus. Left untreated, these complications can prevent people
from having children.
Each year up to 1
million women in the United States develop PID, a serious infection
of the reproductive organs. As many as half of all cases of PID may
be due to chlamydial infection, and many of these don't have
symptoms. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can
block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place.
Researchers estimate that 100,000 women each year become infertile
because of PID.
In other cases,
scarring may interfere with the passage of the fertilized egg to the
uterus during pregnancy. When this happens, the egg may attach
itself to the fallopian tube. This is called ectopic or tubal
pregnancy. This very serious condition results in a miscarriage and
can cause death of the mother.
Infection Affect a Newborn Baby?
A baby who is exposed to C. trachomatis in the birth canal
during delivery may develop an eye infection or pneumonia. Symptoms
of conjunctivitis or "pink eye," which include discharge and swollen
eyelids, usually develop within the first 10 days of life.
pneumonia, including a cough that gets steadily worse and
congestion, most often develop within three to six weeks of birth.
Doctors can treat both conditions successfully with antibiotics.
Because of these risks to the newborn, many doctors recommend that
all pregnant women get tested for chlamydial infection.
Note: All information
is based upon materials published by the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD).
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