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What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs also are known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that affects both men and women. Chlamydia also can be passed on to newborn babies by mothers during delivery
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Canada.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
In the early stages of the disease, there are often no symptoms. Most people don’t know they have it. Symptoms are more likely to occur 1 to 3 weeks after exposure and can include:
- Painful urination (a burning sensation)
- Lower abdominal pain
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge in women
- Irregular periods in women
- Discharge from the penis in men
- Pain in the testicles in men
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Rectal pain, discharge, and bleeding for men and women who engage in anal sexual activity.
- Reactive arthritis in both men and women (pain and inflammation of the joints that develops from an infection).
At its worst, chlamydia can damage a woman’s fertility, making it difficult to get pregnant. Also, it can cause an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that develops outside the womb).
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
What causes chlamydia?
Chlamydia is caused by engaging in unprotected sexual activity (vaginal, anal, and oral) with a person who has the infection. It also can spread just by touching an infected person’s genitals.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may take a sample of bacteria from your genitals. For women, your healthcare provider may swab (with a long cotton swab) the inside of the vagina. For men, they may swab the inside of the end of the penis. A urine test also may be required. This involves peeing in a cup provided by the healthcare provider’s office. The urine sample is sent to a lab to be tested. If you are pregnant, your healthcare provider may check you for chlamydia even if you have no signs of the disease. Chlamydia can be extremely dangerous to a newborn.
Can chlamydia be prevented or avoided?
According to Health Canada, the following suggestions can lower your risk:
- Learn about safer sex methods and practice them.
- Make informed decisions. Talk to your partner(s) about their STI status and the use of protection.
- Correctly and consistently using a condom during sex reduces the risk of chlamydia and other STIs.
- Get tested for chlamydia if you are sexually active.
Women ages 25 and younger who are having or have had any kind of sex (oral, vaginal or anal) should see their healthcare provider on a routine basis to be screened for chlamydia and other STIs. Women should also avoid douching because it reduces the amount of good bacteria in the vagina and may increase the risk of infection.
How is chlamydia treated?
If you have chlamydia, it can be treated with antibiotic medicine. Your doctor will prescribe a pill to be taken by mouth. Your partner also needs to be tested and treated.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any allergies to antibiotics. Finish taking your entire antibiotic. Do not engage in sexual contact again for 7 days after you and your partner(s) finish all of your medicine. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience a fever or stomach pain while taking the medicine. Also, tell your healthcare provider if you are or might be pregnant.
Living with chlamydia
If left untreated, chlamydia can spread to different parts of your body. This can cause additional harm. For example, if chlamydia spreads to the eyes, it can cause eye infections and blindness. In women, the infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes (part of a woman’s reproductive system). . The infection can cause scarring in this area. This can cause infertility or difficulty becoming pregnant. It also can cause an ectopic pregnancy. If the infection is passed on to a newborn baby through a vaginal delivery, it can cause pneumonia or an eye infection that could result in blindness. In men, chlamydia can spread to the testicles and prostate. This can cause swelling, painful urination, fever and pain in the lower back.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Public Health Services of Canada at: