What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is an infection caused by the bacteria CHLAMYDIA TRACHOMATIS. It usually affects the genitals of both women and men, but can also infect the rectum, throat and eye.
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). However it is sometimes known as the 'silent infection' as it often causes no symptoms and so people are not aware that they are infected. You can be infected with Chlamydia for months, even years, without realising it.
How do you get Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is mainly spread from one person to another through:-
What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?
About 75% of infected women and about 50% of infected men do not develop any symptoms - others have very mild symptoms.
In women symptoms may include:-
What if my partner has symptoms but I don't?
If you have had unprotected sex, the chances are that you are infected too, but in the very early stages it may be difficult to pick up - it usually shows up on tests about a few weeks.
The sooner your infection is diagnosed the more effective is treatment and the less likely that you will develop any complications.
Can Chlamydia be prevented?
Before you have sex, talk to your partner about how you can both protect yourselves. Wearing a condom during sex helps to prevent Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections. However for it to be effective it must be put on correctly and before any genital contact is made. Keep a supply of condoms ready and always ensure they have the BSI Kitemark and CE mark.
What are the risks of catching Chlamydia?
The fpa advises that it is a risk if :-
You should consider a test in such situations
Chlamydia can appear in people who have not had a sexual partner for some time. This can be because the partner is infected but has no symptoms and so does not pass on the infection immediately
How do they test for Chlamydia?
There are 2 ways of testing:-
Cervical smear tests and blood tests do not detect Chlamydia.
Can I get more than one infection at the same time?
It is possible to get infected with Chlamydia plus another STI at the same time. Modern laboratory tests show that, depending on setting, roughly 30% of people with an STI have another STI as well. Your doctor or clinic will be aware of that possibility and will aim to diagnose and test for the common causes of STI.
How do they treat Chlamydia?
A short course of antibiotics usually clears Chlamydia. Tell your doctor if you are (or may be) pregnant. This may affect the choice of antibiotic. The doctor may recommend starting treatment before your test results come back if there is a high chance of you having the infection..
Do not have sex until you and your sexual partner have finished treatment (or for 7 days after treatment with a 'single dose' antibiotic which is sometimes used).
Why should I take antibiotics if I have no symptoms?
Because the infection may spread and cause complications (see below). This can be months after you are first infected. You can pass on the infection to your sexual partner even if you do not have symptoms.
Does my partner need to be treated?
Yes. Also, any other sexual partner within the past 6 months should also be tested for infection. (If you have not had sex within the last 6 months then your latest sexual partner should be tested and treated, however long ago the relationship was.) A course of antibiotics is usually advised whether or not infection is found on testing. This is because Chlamydial infection is commonly passed on during sex.
Men and women often have no symptoms with chlamydia, but can still pass on the infection. The test for chlamydia is not 100% reliable. Treatment makes sure that any possible infection which may have been missed by the tests is cleared. If your sexual partner is infected and not treated, chlamydia can be passed back to you again after you are treated.
How do I tell my partner I think I have a problem?
If you think you have a genital infection, it is important to tell your partner, so that they can also get treated If your partner also has the infection and doesn't get treated, you could get re-infected. Your partner will need a check-up even if they have no symptoms.
It may be difficult to tell your partner. Try to choose a good time to raise the subject - when you are both relaxed and unlikely to be interrupted. Try sharing the responsibility. It is better to use phrases like "what are we going to do about this?" rather than "what are you going to do?" Be aware that your partner might have become infected many months ago from a previous sex partner without even being aware of it.
Can Chlamydia cause much damage if left untreated?
The risk of complications is much reduced if the Chlamydia infection is treated early.
If left untreated, the infection may seriously affect the uterus and fallopian tubes (called 'pelvic inflammatory disease'). This may develop suddenly and cause fever and pain. It can also develop slowly over months or years without causing symptoms. However, over time, scarring or damage to the fallopian tubes may occur and can cause:
If left untreated, the infection can cause:-
Where can you go for help and advice?
If you suspect that you have chlamydia, or any other a sexually transmitted disease, then
What if I am pregnant or trying to get pregnant?
If a woman has an STI during pregnancy, this could affect her baby either in the womb or at birth. During ante-natal care, screening tests for some STIs, particularly syphilis, are often done in order to ensure that your baby is healthy. Some infections, such as genital warts or genital herpes, may become worse during pregnancy. Blood-borne infections such as syphilis, HIV or hepatitis B and C may also be passed direct to the baby. Fortunately, most STIs can be treated satisfactorily during pregnancy without harming the baby. Nevertheless, it is very important that you tell the doctor treating you that you are or may be pregnant, so that the right baby-friendly drug is used.
Its important to check that you are clear of Chlamydia prior to getting pregnant if possible
Can my baby get a Chlamydial infection?
Studies suggest that roughly a third of babies born through a Chlamydial - infected cervix will develop a chlamydial eye infection. This becomes apparent as a discharge of pus or weepy material from the eye about a week after birth. The tissue around the eye becomes puffy (swollen) and the eye does not respond to being cleaned.
If your new-born baby has a sticky eye which does not respond to conventional treatment, it is quite likely it has a chlamydial eye infection. You should ask your usual doctor for advice. The infection can be confirmed by a laboratory test, although this is not available to many doctors. If your baby is found to have a chlamydial eye infection, then it is likely that you, and probably your sex partner, also have a chlamydial infection, with all of you needing treatment. Consult the doctor of your choice about this.
If a chlamydial eye infection in a baby remains untreated, the symptoms eventually clear up. However quite a high proportion of these apparently cured babies go on to develop a chlamydial pneumonia at around 6 weeks of age. These babies will show signs of mild chest infection and considerable lung changes visible by X-ray. Chlamydial pneumonia is uncommon and is probably often missed, but you should be alert to the possibility. Again, such an infection means that you and your partner need treatment for a probable chlamydial genital tract infection.