Getting the facts on chlamydia

lyndsay.mercier

Question: I’ve heard that chlamydia is one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections. What are some symptoms? Is it curable?

— Curious about chlamydia

Answer: You’re right; chlamydia is currently the No. 1 bacterial STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) in the United States, with an estimated three million new cases each year.

The most common symptoms are vaginal or penile discharge, painful intercourse, painful or burning urination, excessive vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods, abdominal pain, nausea, fever and swelling of the cervix or testicles.

It is extremely important to remember that over 75 percent of women with chlamydia show no symptoms at all. Men are more likely than women to show symptoms, but around 50 percent of men also show none. When symptoms do occur, they typically show up between five and 21 days after becoming infected.

Chlamydia is most often spread through anal and vaginal intercourse, and less often through oral sex. You can protect yourself against chlamydia very easily by always using a condom.

The good news about chlamydia is that, since it’s a bacterial infection and not viral, it is easily cured with antibiotics. However, since most women and many men show no symptoms at all, it is especially important to get routine STI screenings with your doctor if you are sexually active or plan to be. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to bladder infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy. It can also cause sterility in both men and women. Some women don’t know they’ve had chlamydia until they later seek treatment for infertility and find that it was caused by a past chlamydia infection that was left long untreated.

Often, when people are diagnosed with chlamydia they might feel dirty and disgusted with themselves. It can be very inconvenient, embarrassing and uncomfortable; especially if you have several partners to inform. However, it is important to remind yourself that chlamydia is very common, totally curable, and does not make you a “slut.” It simply means that you unfortunately caught a contagious infection, just like you can catch many other illnesses. Besides, as long as you always remember to correctly use a condom each and every time you have sex, you and your partner(s) will most likely never have to deal with chlamydia at all.

Editor’s Note: Lyndsay Mercier is a senior Psychology major. She is also the president of Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood, a trained sexual education peer educator and a teaching apprentice for Psychology of Sex Behaviors. Lyndsay is not a medical doctor and her advice should never replace the advice of a doctor. E-mail her your sexual health related questions at: [email protected]