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Chlamydia Symptoms

Chlamydia is often symptomless.

Lower abdominal pain is a common symptom of chlamydia. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Lower abdominal pain is a common symptom of chlamydia.

Chlamydia Symptoms

Chlamydia symptoms are often indistinct in the early stage, and some sufferers never experience symptoms. Therefore, chlamydia is universally referred to as a silent disease. When mild symptoms occur, sufferers often ascribe these to less serious conditions such as a bladder or vaginal infection. Although Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD), its easily treated with antibiotics.

This sexually transmitted disease affects both males and females. Approximately 3 million new infections occur annually. An estimated 5 percent of sexually active adults are infected with this disease. Unfortunately, many infections are undiagnosed and these individuals do not receive treatment.

Diagnosing Chlamydia

Chlamydia is easy to diagnose. In almost every instance, doctors order a series of diagnostic tests. These tests not only help diagnose a person with chlamydia, but they also help rule out other conditions that mimic this STD, such as pregnancy and gonorrhea. In fact, its sometimes difficult to make a distinction between chlamydia and gonorrhea. As a result, some doctors treat a patient for both sexually transmitted diseases. Doctors normally order a urine sample, and if there is discharge from the vagina or penis, theyll likely request a culture study and examine the fluid under a microscope.

Because the risk of re-infection is high, persons diagnosed with chlamydia should notify their sex partners immediately. According to eMedicine Health, this sexually transmitted disease is common amongst African Americans and young adults; and it is more present in lower class, urban communities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists the varying symptoms for females and males.

For females, symptoms include:

  • Excessive vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful intercourse
  • Fever
  • Abnormal bleeding

For males, symptoms include:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Swelling and itching around the testicles

Chlamydia-Related Complications

Approximately 70 to 80 percent of women and 25 to 50 percent of men do not experience symptoms. Therefore, the risk of developing chlamydia-related complications is high. Although symptoms normally surface 1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the bacteria, some people dont experience symptoms until several weeks or months later. By this time, the bacterium usually spreads to other areas of the body.

There are short-term and long-term complications associated with chlamydia. In women, chlamydia involves the cervix and urethra. If left untreated or undiagnosed, the disease will gradually spread outside these areas to the fallopian tubes and rectum. Likewise, the disease can spread to the rectum in males. Individuals who practice oral sex can also have chlamydia in their throats. According to the Center for Disease Control, serious complications are more common in women. Despite that, the bacteria can ultimately spread to the epididymis and cause sterility in men. Female complications include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, eye inflammation and premature delivery.

Preventing Chlamydia Complications

According to Health Scout, the only fail-safe technique to avoid chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual relations. Condoms are proven to reduce the risk of infection. Even if a person doesnt notice any unusual symptoms, all high risk, sexually active individuals should undergo annual testing. Individuals who fit into this category include persons who engage in sexual activities with more than one partner, pregnant women, and persons having sexual relations with a new partner. Another preventive measure is to avoid sexual relations with high risk partners.

High risk individuals should stay alert to telltale signs, and seek immediate medical treatment if they suspect chlamydia or another sexually transmitted disease. More importantly, these persons should stop all sexual relations until theyve been tested and treated for the disease.

Treating Chlamydia Symptoms

Taking a single or weekly dose of an antibiotic is sufficient treatment for chlamydia. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include azithromycin (Zithromax), doxycycline (Atridox) or erythromycin. To prevent re-infection, persons diagnosed with the disease should abstain from sexual relations (including oral sex) until treatment is complete. Symptoms may completely disappear after one or two days of treatment. Patients should continue to take the antibiotic as prescribed by a doctor even if symptoms disappear. The bacteria may remain in the body, meaning it is still possible to infect others.

Once a patient completes a course of medication, some doctors recommend re-testing for the disease, especially if the person has engaged in sexual relations while undergoing treatment for chlamydia. A re-test checks for traces of the bacteria, and is often necessary when symptoms dont improve within a week.

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