Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Canada, and its prevalence is increasing.

As with other STIs, it is transmitted through unprotected sex and common in sexually active young adults and teenagers.

This infection does not cause symptoms in most cases, but if left untreated, it may result in long-standing complications. 

But the good news is that it can be easily treated with antibiotics. Besides, chlamydia can be prevented using condoms and dental dams during sex.

If you are under 25 and sexually active, it is best to consult your doctor to know if you should get tested for chlamydia. Moreover, a mother can also pass the infection to the child during pregnancy, and thus pregnant women need to get tested for chlamydia.

What Is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. In most cases, people suffering from this infection do not have any symptoms. 

It is seen that 75% of women and 50% of men with the infection do not have any symptoms. However, if left untreated, it can cause complications later.

All sexually active individuals, especially those below the age of 25, should screen themselves for this condition every year or when they change the partner. It is best to consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Symptoms of chlamydia may differ in both men and women.

Symptoms in Men

It may take up to three weeks for the symptoms to appear. When present, the common symptoms include:

  • Green or yellow discharge from the penis
  • Pain in the testes
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

Sometimes, men can also get an infection in the anus. In such cases, the symptoms may include pain, discharge, and bleeding from the anus.

Moreover, oral sex with an infected individual can increase the risk of getting chlamydia in the throat. Symptoms may include cough, sore throat, or fever.

Symptoms in Women

Chlamydia is often known as a silent infection as it does not cause symptoms in most cases. When present, symptoms may take a couple of weeks to be seen.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Bleeding between the periods
  • Dyspareunia or painful sexual intercourse
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Inflammation of the cervix

In some cases, the infection can spread to the fallopian tubes, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease PID). Symptoms of PID are nausea, fever, abnormal bleeding between periods, and severe pelvic pain.

Similar to men, women can also get a chlamydia infection in the rectum. But women do not have any symptoms in most cases. If present, symptoms may include rectal discharge, pain, or bleeding.

The throat infection may occur if the woman performs oral sex on the infected men. Symptoms may include fever, cough, and sore throat.

As symptoms of men and women may be different, it is best to consult your physician if you have any of the mentioned symptoms.

Complications

If you consult your doctor as soon as you suspect chlamydia, the infection is easy to manage and subsides without any complications.

However, it is a silent condition, and many people may not be aware and be late to treat it, resulting in complications.

Complications in Men

  • Epididymitis: It is an inflammatory condition of the epididymis, a tube that maintains the testes in place. This condition may cause pain in the testicles.
  • Prostatitis: The infection can pass to the prostate, resulting in pain during intercourse, fever, and discomfort in the lower back.
  • Urethritis: when the infection affects the urethra, it may cause pain while urinating.

Complications in Women

Some complications are:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: This condition can damage the cervix, uterus, and ovaries. It is a painful disease and requires immediate treatment. 
  • Infertility: If chlamydia affects the fallopian tube, it may become scarred, resulting in infertility.
  • Passing the infection to the baby: It may cause pneumonia or eye infections in the newborn.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may ask about your symptoms. They may also run a physical check to look for sores, discharge, unusual spots, or other symptoms indicating an infection.

The most common way of diagnosing chlamydia is by sending the sample to a laboratory for analysis. It can be done in two ways:

  • Swab: It involves using cotton to take the sample from the vagina, anus, or throat.
  • Urine analysis: Urine is collected in a container.

The results may take about seven to ten days. If you have symptoms that indicate chlamydia, the treatment may be started even before the results come.

Who Should Get Tested?

Your doctor may advise taking the test if:

  • You have had unprotected sex with a new partner
  • You or your partner have multiple sexual partners
  • You are planning to conceive or are pregnant
  • You or your partner have symptoms of chlamydia
  • You are sexually active and under 25 years
  • You are men having sex with men

How Is Chlamydia Transmitted?

Unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex may transmit chlamydia infection. However, penetration is not essential to spread it. Even touching of genitals may transmit the bacteria.

Pregnant mothers can spread the infection to the baby. You can also infect your eyes with the bacteria through oral or genital contact. However, this is extremely rare.

To sum up, you can get chlamydia infection through:

  • Unprotected anal, vaginal, or oral sex
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Genitals coming in contact with the genitals of an infected individual
  • Infected vaginal fluid or semen in your eye

Treatment

Medicines

The good news is that chlamydia can be cured easily. It is seen that 95% of the infected individuals are cured of the infection if they take medicines correctly. 

As chlamydia is a bacterial infection, antibiotics help to manage it. Commonly used antibiotics are:

  • Azithromycin: Usually prescribed to be taken in a single large dose
  • Doxycycline: To be taken twice a day for a week

If you are allergic to the mentioned medicines or they are not advisable for you, the doctor may prescribe other antibiotics such as erythromycin or amoxicillin. So, do not take medicine before consulting your doctor.

Despite the choice of antibiotics, taking medicine correctly will ensure that the infection is cleared completely. It may take up to two weeks for the same.

Your doctor will advise refraining from sex during treatment to prevent the spread of the infection to your partner. It is also possible to get or spread the infection if you are exposed to the bacteria again, even if you are treated for your previous infection.

Home Remedies

While antibiotics are essential to cure chlamydia, certain alternative treatment options can help soothe symptoms.

Some common ones are:

  • Echinacea: This plant is widely used to boost the immune system, helping you overcome various infections from skin wounds to colds. It may also help to manage symptoms of chlamydia.
  • Goldenseal: This plant works by reducing inflammation and limiting symptoms during the infection.

Of note, these medicines are seen to be beneficial in various studies and may help to ease inflammation and infection, but there is not enough evidence.

Prevention Is Key

The surest and the best way to prevent spreading or contracting chlamydia infection is to use a condom during sex.

It is recommended to:

  • Use a condom, especially with each new partner
  • Avoid having oral sex unless the partner is screened for STIs
  • Get screened regularly
  • Limit the number of sexual partners
  • Correct and consistent use of condoms
  • Avoid sex until the treatment is complete
  • Get tested if you are pregnant or planning to conceive

Final Thoughts

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted bacterial infection, and its prevalence is increasing in Canada. It does not cause symptoms in most cases but may result in severe complications if left untreated.

Fortunately, it is easy to treat this condition with antibiotics. It is also easy to prevent chlamydia by practicing safe sex.

Screening can help to catch the infection at earlier stages and prevent complications. So, it is best to consult your doctor and get regular screening, especially if you are sexually active and below 25 years.

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