Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. These bacteria target mucous membranes, including the surfaces of the vagina, cervix, endometrium and urethra, the anus, the rectum and the fallopian tubes. Chlamydia is easily treatable with antibiotics, but does not clear up on its own if left untreated. If left untreated, the bacteria persists and may ultimately create a dangerous condition.
Because chlamydia does not go away on its own if left untreated, and because it may at times be asymptomatic, it is essential to understand how you get chlamydia so you can be tested for the disease if you are at risk. Chlamydia is passed through sexual activity, primarily vaginal or anal sex. Full penetration does not have to occur for the chlamydia to be passed from the penis to the vagina or anus or vice versa. Furthermore, chlamydia can be passed from the vagina to the anus or rectum when a woman wipes with toilet paper or otherwise spreads the bacteria from the vagina to the anus.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea have very similar symptoms, if they are symptomatic at all (50 percent of women and 75 percent of men have no symptoms associated with a chlamydia infection.) Thus, because chlamydia will not go away on its own if left untreated, if you are experiencing symptoms, or if you may have been exposed, you should go to a doctor for a diagnosis.
Symptoms include an inflamed rectum or urethra, vaginal or penile discharge, burning while urinating, lower abdomen or back pain, pain during sex, irregular bleeding in between periods, swollen testicles, fever or nausea.
Chlamydia is usually diagnosed by a nucleic acid amplicification test. A urine or swab test may also be used to check for bacteria. Proper diagnosis is essential so the virus can be treated before it progresses into a more serious condition.
Antibiotics, including azithromycin and doxycycline, are generally prescribed to treat chlamydia. Patients should wait until the chlamydia has been completely cured before engaging in sexual behavior. If you begin to exhibit symptoms again after a successful course of treatment, it is likely that you have been reinfected since treatment generally does not fail to eliminate the bacteria. Women often have a high rate of reinfection and should be tested again within 3 to 4 months following the conclusion of treatment.
Chlamydia will not go away on its own if left untreated. Eventually, it can progress to more serious illnesses. In women, untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of the reproductive organs that can cause infertility) or cystitis (an inflamed urinary bladder). In men, untreated chlamydia can lead to infertility, inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) or the epididymis, or scarring in the urethra.
In rare cases, primarily in men between the ages of 20 and 40, Reiter's syndrome can develop from untreated chlamydia. Reiter's Syndrome is a cause of arthritis, urinary tract problems and eye redness.