Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most commonly occurring sexually transmitted infection in the UK. As many as one in ten young people are thought to have the infection, though many don’t know about it. The infection is slow to develop symptoms, which means it can be hard to spot without regular testing and screening for the bacteria. However, once the infection has been detected it can be easily treated with a high degree of effectiveness.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by a micro-organism called Chlamydia Trachomatis. Like many other kinds of infections, it can cause a number of problems for the people that it infects. If left untreated, the infection can cause a number of complications in both men and women. The most common and serious of these complications is infertility and the inability to either conceive, carry a baby or father children.

The arrows show Chlamydia Trachomatis bacteria under the microscope

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Chlamydia, unlike some other sexually transmitted infections, can develop in a number of different areas of the body. It is most commonly found in the genito-urinary area – that is, the sex organs and those involved in the production and excretion of urine. These parts of the body are most intimately involved with many sexual acts and are the most vulnerable to infection. However, it can also develop in the rectum as a result of anal sex, be passed into the throat through oral sex and can even show up in children as Chlamydial conjunctivitis after picking up the bacteria as they pass through the birth canal at delivery.

How widespread is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a big problem in terms of sexual health worldwide. The rates of infection across the world have been found to be high. While the Americas – North and South – are currently at the top of the world rankings for high rates of the infection, the Chlamydia epidemic affects Europe severely and rates of infection are second only to the Americas. This presents public health and governments with a key health problem to tackle to reduce the numbers of people with Chlamydia across the country.

Chlamydia is a problem around the world

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The age group that is at greatest risk of developing Chlamydia is young people. Those aged between 15 and 25 years of age are much more likely to pick up the infection than those in older age groups. Chlamydia in teenagers is something that has caused a particular concern amongst public health professionals and the government, so widespread free testing is now available to try to curb the rates of infection amongst these groups.

Although the recorded rates of infection have gone up since the testing programme began some 11 years ago, this thought to be largely due to improved detection rather than a growth in the number of people with Chlamydia. The more people who are detected with the infection, the more chance there is to reduce the spread of Chlamydia by treating people and preventing them from passing it on.

Public health surveillance statistics projected into 2014 show that the rates of Chlamydia are likely to remain the same or increase in the coming year. Although treatment has been increased through the early detection of Chlamydia in young people, it will take some time for this to make an impact on the overall rates of infection throughout the population.

Catching Chlamydia

The most likely way to pick up the Chlamydia infection is through unprotected sex. The bacteria that cause the infection are carried in the bodily fluids produced during sex and if there is no barrier between partners, these can easily be passed from one person to another.

While Chlamydia is most commonly passed on through unprotected penetrative sex, there are other ways in which the infection can be passed from one person to another. It is less well-known amongst the general population that you can in fact pick up Chlamydia from oral sex, most likely when a man or woman carries out oral sex on a man.

Oral sex can pass on Chlamydia

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Chlamydia picked up during oral sex will colonise the throat and can cause a range of symptoms including throat, sinus and eye infections that don’t clear up in response to standard treatment. However, like Chlamydia elsewhere in the body, it can lie dormant for weeks or months before developing into something that shows any kind of symptoms.

Thankfully for those looking for a bit of good, clean fun, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever be able to contract Chlamydia from kissing. While other sexually transmitted infections such as the herpes virus can be contracted from lip to lip contact, you can kiss to your heart’s content without fear of getting the Chlamydia infection. Even if a person has the Chlamydia bacteria in their throat following an earlier infection, the chances of them passing that on are slim to none.

Detecting Chlamydia

The symptoms of Chlamydia are sometimes elusive and its widespread nature through the population is largely due to the fact that symptoms don’t always develop and take a while to appear following contracting the infection. Symptoms sometimes take weeks or months to develop and on occasion don’t show up at all.

If the infection does show itself in outward physical symptoms, these will differ depending on whether the infection is in a man or a woman. For men, the most likely sign that they have Chlamydia is pain when passing urine. They can also experience pain, swelling and heat in the testicles that suggests the infection has worked its way back up the genital tract. If this happens, it’s very important to seek treatment quickly to ensure that widespread damage isn’t caused.

Detecting Chlamydia

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For women, there are several indicators that can suggest that they have contracted the Chlamydia infection. They may also experience pain when urinating, suggesting that the infection has colonised the urethra or bladder, or even pain around the lower abdomen and pelvic area. These should be taken as a serious sign to seek medical assistance as, if left untreated; Chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and lead to infertility.

A common early indicator of Chlamydia infection in both men and women who have the infection is the appearance of discharge that is out of the ordinary for the individual. For women, a common tell-tale sign is the production of vaginal discharge that is different from the usual lubrication of the vagina or bleeding experienced during periods. For men, where the infection is usually in the genito-urinary tract, discharge from the penis is the most common signal that all is not well and a test is advisable to rule out anything serious.

In addition to the common symptoms of Chlamydia infection, there are some other tell-tale signs that might indicate that having a test for STIs including Chlamydia would be advisable.

One of the key indicators that testing is necessary is if a partner or former partner has been diagnosed with the infection. Often, if one partner in a relationship is diagnosed with Chlamydia, the other is automatically commenced on treatment without waiting for the results of tests as the infection is highly contagious and easily passed on through unprotected sex.

Confirming the diagnosis

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to the Chlamydia infection, it’s important to get a test to confirm the presence of the bacteria. There are two main types of tests – urine tests and swab tests – that will be appropriate for different people at different times. You can get tested by a healthcare provider in a doctor’s surgery, sexual health clinic or even at a pharmacy. On the other hand, if you’d rather remain anonymous, you can order testing kits online and get your results without having to discuss your business with another person.

It always makes sense to get yourself tested every time you change sexual partner or once a year otherwise. If you have a failure of your barrier contraception, you may wish to get tested sooner rather than later to rule out the possibility of picking up Chlamydia.

Treating the Chlamydia infection

The medication used to treat Chlamydia is antibiotics. As a bacterial infection, Chlamydia can only be cured with the use of antibiotics to wipe it out of the system. The antibiotics will kill the bacteria and allow them to be harmlessly passed out of the body.

While the standard treatment for the Chlamydia infection is antibiotics, it is important to make sure that you have the infection before starting treatment. As a bacterial infection, Chlamydia will be killed off by the right antibiotics to which it is sensitive but that sensitivity will be reduced if antibiotics are used when they are not needed. Antibiotic-resistant strains of infections are one of the main problems facing healthcare around the world and a major cause is using antibiotics when they aren’t needed.

Antibiotics are used to treat Chlamydia

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A number of antibiotics are available that are effective in the treatment of the Chlamydia infection. These give healthcare professionals a range of options to choose from when treating Chlamydia in different patients. Some people are unable to tolerate particular types of antibiotics for a whole host of reasons mean the most common antibiotics are unsuitable. In order to work out which type of antibiotics are most appropriate for you, you can discuss your options with your health professional and they will help you make a decision based on your current circumstances and medical history.

If you are worried about taking antibiotics because you have shown allergies to particular types in the past, you can discuss this with your doctor or other healthcare providers. Thankfully, there are plenty of types of antibiotics that work in combatting the Chlamydia infection. If one or more are unsuitable for you because of allergies, pregnancy or a range of other reasons, there will be a type of treatment that will be suitable for you.

The most commonly used antibiotic in the treatment of Chlamydia is Azithromycin. Highly effective and very fast-acting, it’s the number one choice for doctors and other healthcare professionals involved in the treatment of Chlamydia. Once you have a positive Chlamydia test or a strong suspicion that you have contracted the infection, usually due to a partner being tested positive for Chlamydia, you can complete the course of Azithromycin within a few days with complete eradication of the infection in around 95 per cent of cases.

Keeping your confidentiality

While GPs and sexual health clinics will maintain your confidentiality if and when you approach them for tests for sexually transmitted infections, some people feel uncomfortable talking to another person about their sexual health and sexual history face-to-face. Although attitudes are changing, some people would still rather not talk about what they consider to be a very private part of their lives either with a stranger or with someone who already knows them such as their family doctor.

Sometimes it’s better to be incognito

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If you believe that you may have been exposed to the Chlamydia infection, you can order testing kits online if you would rather not visit a doctor or clinic. These kits have a high degree of accuracy and will give you a clear idea whether or not you have the infection.

Once you have your confirmation of infection, there are plenty of opportunities to get Chlamydia treatment online from registered pharmacies that offer a range of treatments including the most commonly used antibiotic, Azithromycin, to ensure that treatment can be completed with complete confidentiality without ever needing to discuss how it might have been contracted or submit to a physical examination.

Conclusion

Chlamydia infection is widespread, easily contracted and difficult to spot without regular testing. It is important to make sure you’re keeping yourself protected by practicing safe sex, being regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections and getting prompt treatment if and when you are tested positive for Chlamydia.

Image Credits: NIAID, Wikipedia, 33mhz, Mike Kline, Martin Cathrae and Thomas Leuthard

Related Chlamydia Articles for research –

Chlamydia Treatments Online – How the Internet Can Help

Chlamydia Statistics for Teenagers

Chlamydia Statistics for the UK in 2014

The Use of Azithromycin in Chlamydia Treatment

Signs of Chlamydia

Chlamydia from oral

A Guide to Discharge from Chlamydia

Chlamydia Antibiotics – Popular Solutions Available 

Chlamydia treatment – the options available 

The Chlamydia Epidemic – UK and Worldwide

Chlamydia Tests – What are Available?

Chlamydia from kissing

A Guide to Discharge from Chlamydia

Chlamydia Symptoms – The Tell-Tale Signs