The Commonality of Chlamydia

July 21, 2008

It's As Old As The Hills

Sexually transmitted diseases have been around for millennia, affecting the lives of those who contract them in ways that often left people severely ill or even dead.  Today things have changed considerably in terms of recognition and treatment of STDs, however they are still every bit as common, perhaps even more so, than in times past.  Since the sexual revolution of the 1960's and the accompanying attitude changes worldwide, STDs have been standard fare.

The Most Common of All

There are several STDs which are well known and very common.  The most frequently reported sexually transmitted disease is chlamydia with over one million cases reported in 2006 alone.  However, this disease is also substantially under-reported since most people are unaware they have it and many are not tested or treated.  If a woman's sexual partner is infected, then she can not only contract chlamydia, but she can become re-infected frequently.  Chlamydia is caused by chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium which has the potential to cause severe damage to a woman's reproductive organs.  Because chlamydia has few obvious signs or symptoms, women suffer damage which is irreversible - including infertility - and the damage can happen silently, before it's even recognized.  In a man, chlamydia can cause a discharge from the penis.

Symptoms, If They Show Up...

If symptoms of chlamydia do appear, it is usually within one to three weeks after exposure.  As previously stated, many times this disease is "silent" and no symptoms are present.  The bacteria infect the urine canal and cervix at first and this infection then can cause vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating.  The infection makes its way through the uterus into the fallopian tubes (where eggs are carried from the ovaries to the uterus) and symptoms may manifest such as pain in the lower back and abdomen, fever and nausea, painful intercourse or bleeding between periods.  The infection can also spread from the cervix to the rectum.

The Bottom Line

If left untreated, chlamydia can have both short and long-term consequences for both general and reproductive health.  In 40 percent of the women diagnosed with this STD, the result is the spread of the infection to the uterus or fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease.  PID can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs leading to chronic pain, infertility and the potential of ectopic pregnancy, which can sometimes be fatal.  The possibility of contracting HIV is increased dramatically with PID.

What Can Be Done

To prevent the very serious consequences of chlamydia, regular yearly screening is advised for all sexually active women, particularly those 25 years of age and younger.  All women who are pregnant should be screened for chlamydia as well.  Laboratory tests can diagnose the disease and a course of antibiotics is usually all that is needed to clear the infection.  Prevention is the best medicine. The protection which can come through a long-term relationship with the same sexual partner, proper use of latex condoms and regular screening are all effective ways to catch this silent destroyer before the damage is done.

 

 

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