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Chlamydia

What is it?
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Canada. It is caused by an intracellular parasite, Chlamydia trachomatis. Because it is transmitted in body fluids and doesn't survive outside the body, chlamydia is most often spread by having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with an infected person or from an infected mother to her child during birth. This infection is rarely, if ever, passed from one woman to another during sex. A person can carry and transmit the infection for years without symptoms until they are properly treated.

What are the symptoms?
Most women (80 percent) don't have symptoms and neither do about 50 percent of men. Some possible symptoms if you do have them are:

  • vaginal discharge
  • irritation
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • deep pain with intercourse
  • painful urination

Male symptoms include:

  • frequent urination with a burning sensation
  • watery discharge from the penis
  • burning or itching around the opening of the penis
  • epididymitis (swelling of the testicles)

How is it diagnosed?
Vaginal chlamydia can be detected by testing a swab from the cervix. Men can be tested by swabbing the urethra or with a new urine test that looks for evidence of the bacteria in the urine. Swab tests in men can be negative even though they have chlamydia.

Are there any complications?
Untreated chlamydia can cause a serious infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can lead to scarring of the Fallopian tubes and result in infertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. In the eye, chlamydia can cause a serious infection. Pneumonia and eye infections are particularly a risk for newborns. Rarely, chlamydia can cause serious arthritis or meningitis.

How is it treated?
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline, erythromycin or azithromycin. Take all of the pills as directed, even if your symptoms stop. Use a condom in future to prevent infection. Be sure to get a test after the next period to make sure the infection is gone.

Should my partner be checked or treated?
Yes, all of your sexual partners from the last three months should be tested and treated. Positive tests for chlamydia must be reported to Public Health, so a Public Health nurse may contact you to ensure that you and your partners have been treated for this infection. If it has been more than three months since you had sex, your last partner should be tested. Do not have unprotected sex with an untreated partner because you can be re-infected.

How can I protect myself from chlamydia?
The best protection from chlamydia is to avoid intercourse or using a condom for vaginal or anal sex.

 

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital