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Chlamydia Treatment

Get information on chlamydia treatment and how to test for this STD.

Antibiotics are a common treatment for chlamydia. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Antibiotics are a common treatment for chlamydia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 2,291,000 non-institutionalized American civilians between the ages of 14 to 39 are infected with chlamydia. Chlamydia is the most frequently reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacterium, in this case, Chlamydia trachomatis. While the common chlamydia treatment is a simple course of antibiotics, the difficulty comes in recognizing the disease in time to obtain treatment.

Chlamydia Symptoms

People can get chlamydia through sexual contact (oral, anal or vaginal), and it can be passed from a mother to her baby during childbirth. About 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men with chlamydia have no symptoms of the disease, which makes diagnosis and treatment very difficult. Women who do have symptoms are likely to experience vaginal or rectal discharge and a burning sensation upon urination or defecation. Men have similar symptoms -- burning during urination or defecation and penile or rectal discharge -- but can also have pain or swelling of the testicles, or itching around the penile opening. Chlamydia bacteria can also be found in the throats of those who have acquired the disease through oral sex.

If untreated, chlamydia can lead to a host of other, more severe health problems. The most severe of these is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to ectopic pregnancies or even infertility in women. According to the CDC, 40 percent of untreated cases of chlamydia result in PID. Other conditions caused by untreated chlamydia include bladder infections and chronic pelvic pain. Complications from untreated chlamydia in men are rare but can also include infertility. Perhaps the biggest risk is posed to the unborn children of mothers with undiagnosed chlamydia. The disease can be spread from mother to baby during vaginal childbirth and can cause complications, such as eye infections and pneumonia.

Testing for Chlamydia

The most important first step in getting chlamydia treatment is to be tested for the disease. Young women are most susceptible to chlamydia, so women 25 or under should be tested annually. Women older than 25 should continue to be tested annually if they have a new sexual partner or if their sexual partner has other sexual partners. Sexually active men should also be tested periodically. Chlamydia tests are usually performed on a urine sample, but some tests require that a sample be collected from the penis or cervix instead. If a positive test result is obtained, all previous sexual partners should be tested and treated as well.

Chlamydia Treatment

Fortunately, the common chlamydia treatment is fairly simple. Antibiotic treatment is standard, with either a single dose of azithromycin or a week-long course of doxycycline (taken twice daily). There are also antibiotics available that can treat chlamydia safely during pregnancy. It is important to finish all of the medication, even if symptoms go away and you're feeling better, to fully treat the bacterium that causes chlamydia. During treatment, the infected person must abstain from sexual contact. Any sexual partners should also be tested and treated. If symptoms don't clear up within two weeks, a follow up visit to with a doctor is necessary. Because women are highly susceptible to re-infection, a follow-up test should be performed three to four weeks after treatment. This is of particular importance if a partner was not treated, or there is a new sexual partner.

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