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The Call-On-Doc Guide to Chlamydia

Published on Jul 12, 2023 | 5:17 PM

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As one of the most common STDs alongside bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia affects well over a million people in the United States alone. Having risen year-over-year, hopes of there being a decline in cases were curbed when the number of cases went from 1,579,885 in 2020 to 1,644,416 in 2021, but fortunately, chlamydia has not returned to pre-pandemic numbers. (1) 

Formally known as Chlamydia trachomatis, the STD is most common in younger generations aged 15 to 24, with an estimated 1 in 20 sexually active young women in that age group having the condition. How chlamydia has become so prevalent can be easily explained, with the majority of those infected experiencing no symptoms and going without regular and recommended STD testing.

What are the causes of chlamydia?

The infection commonly occurs due to unprotected sexual activity, where the bacteria is transmitted by exchanging infected bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, or rectal fluids. Not just isolated to body parts that produce such fluids (penis, vagina, anus), chlamydia can survive in and infect other parts of the body like the eyes and throat by direct contact or when someone has the infected fluids on their hands. (3) Once a person is infected, they do become a carrier and can then infect other sexual partners with the STD regardless of if they are asymptomatic or exhibiting symptoms. Additionally, chlamydia can be transmitted from an infected mother to her newborn during childbirth. Like other STIs, this occurs when the baby passes through the birth canal. (4) 

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How do I know if I caught chlamydia?

When it comes to figuring out whether you have chlamydia or not, the best method of discovery is getting regular STD tests when sexually active as well as during your recommended annual well-women or men's checkup. Relying on chlamydia symptoms alone is not necessarily effective due to most cases being asymptomatic, with only around 30% of women and about 10% of men experiencing any noticeable symptoms. (5)(2) 

how-do-i-know-if-i-caught-chlamydia

What does chlamydia feel like and look like?

Chlamydia often presents without noticeable symptoms, especially in its early stages, which can make it challenging to detect. However, when symptoms do occur, they can vary widely between individuals and may include abnormal genital discharge, burning or pain during urination, and discomfort in the lower abdomen. Some individuals may experience symptoms such as vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex in women, and testicular pain or swelling in men. In severe cases, untreated chlamydia can lead to complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women or epididymitis in men, which may cause more pronounced symptoms such as pelvic pain, fever, and nausea. 

what-does-chlamydia-feel-like-and-look-like

Can anything be mistaken for chlamydia?

Yes, there are several conditions that can be mistaken for chlamydia due to overlapping symptoms. Some of these conditions include:

Gonorrhea: Chlamydia and gonorrhea symptoms often go hand-in-hand, making it easy for the two to be confused with one another outside of a professional environment. Both infections can cause similar symptoms, such as abnormal genital discharge, pain or discomfort during urination, and pain during sexual intercourse. Additionally, both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be asymptomatic, leading individuals to suspect a possible infection without clear indicators.

Trichomoniasis: A person may confuse or assume they have trichomoniasis instead of chlamydia due to the similarities in some of their symptoms. Both trichomoniasis and chlamydia can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort during urination, and discomfort during sexual intercourse. However, there are some distinguishing factors. Trichomoniasis may cause frothy, greenish, or yellowish discharge with a strong odor, while chlamydia typically presents with a discharge that is clearer or cloudy. 

Urinary Tract Infections: Both UTIs and chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation during urination. They can also lead to a frequent urge to urinate and lower abdominal discomfort. However, chlamydia typically presents with symptoms like abnormal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, and in women, bleeding between periods. UTIs are better known for distinct symptoms such as cloudy or strong-smelling urine, fever, and lower back pain.

Yeast Infections: A person may confuse or assume they have a yeast infection (candidiasis) instead of chlamydia due to some similar symptoms they share. Both yeast infections and chlamydia can cause vaginal itching, discomfort, and abnormal discharge. However, yeast infections typically produce a thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge and can cause external itching and irritation. Chlamydia, on the other hand, may have a different type of discharge (clear or cloudy) and can present with additional symptoms such as pain during urination, pelvic pain, and pain during sexual intercourse.

Bacterial Vaginosis: Both BV and chlamydia can cause changes in vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis often leads to a thin, grayish-white discharge with a strong, fishy odor. Chlamydia, on the other hand, may cause a different type of discharge (clear or cloudy) without a distinct odor. While BV can cause vaginal itching and irritation, chlamydia may present with additional symptoms such as pain during urination, pelvic pain, and pain during sexual intercourse. 

How does a doctor know if you have chlamydia?

When it comes to diagnosing chlamydia, a doctor will generally start with a routine screening to both identify any chlamydia symptoms a person may have and to remove any infections or diseases that have similarities. Such screenings will include a description of how you are feeling, a physical examination, and then a laboratory test to identify the STD. 

When conducting the test, most doctors will opt for the use of nucleic acid amplification tests or NAATs. NAATs are highly accurate tests that detect the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of the chlamydia bacteria. Samples for NAATs can be collected through urine samples or swabs from the cervix (in women) or urethra (in men). NAATs are the most commonly used tests for chlamydia diagnosis due to their high accuracy. (2)

In instances of a positive case, doctors may encourage a patient to inform their partners to get checked out and receive chlamydia treatment in the case of a positive result. In both processes, CallonDoc offers expedited services when a patient tests positive for the condition, allowing the process to be easier and just as private!

Which is the best treatment for chlamydia?

The best treatment for chlamydia is a course of antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional. The most commonly recommended antibiotics for treating chlamydia are azithromycin or doxycycline. These antibiotics work by killing the chlamydia bacteria and clearing the infection. The choice of antibiotic and the duration of treatment may vary depending on factors such as the severity of the infection, individual health considerations, and any drug allergies. It is crucial to abstain from sexual activity until the infection is fully resolved to prevent reinfection and further chlamydia transmission. (2)

Can chlamydia clear on its own?

Chlamydia infection generally does not clear on its own without treatment. While some individuals may experience spontaneous resolution of symptoms, the infection can persist and potentially lead to complications if left untreated. It is important to note that chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, and antibiotics are typically needed to effectively eliminate the bacteria from the body. Timely treatment with appropriate antibiotics is essential to clear the infection, prevent further complications, and reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to others. 

What is the gold standard for chlamydia treatment?

On top of the medications typically prescribed for chlamydia treatment, the best methods to truly remove the infection from the body is to abstain from sex and make the body as healthy as possible so it can heal faster throughout the process. If positive for an STD, it is important to identify and connect with current and former sexual partners to notify them. Not only will this allow them the opportunity to get tested and treated, but can help prevent and reduce the spread of STDs to future partners. If left untreated, STDs can cause further health complications later on, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, increase chances of getting HIV, and even cause infertility. 

Can chlamydia come back after treatment?

Getting chlamydia treatment and ultimately getting it cured does not provide immunity from repeat infections. Studies have shown that a significant proportion of women who have been successfully treated for chlamydia can become reinfected if they engage in sexual activity with an infected partner or have new sexual partners. (6) Several factors contribute to the risk of a repeat infection, including incomplete treatment of the initial infection, failure to notify and treat sexual partners, ongoing high-risk sexual behavior, and lack of consistent and correct use of barrier methods such as condoms. 

Is chlamydia 100% preventable?

While no preventive measure can provide a 100% guarantee, chlamydia transmission can be significantly reduced through various preventive strategies. Here are some key steps to help prevent chlamydia:

  • Abstain from Unprotected Sexual Activity: The most effective way to prevent chlamydia is to abstain from sexual activity or engage in mutually monogamous relationships with a partner who has tested negative for chlamydia.
  • Consistent and Correct Condom Use: Proper and consistent use of latex or polyurethane condoms during vaginal, anal, and oral sex can significantly reduce the risk of chlamydia transmission. However, it's important to note that condoms may not provide full protection against the infection, as chlamydia can also be transmitted through genital contact.
  • Regular Testing and Screening: Routine testing and screening for chlamydia, especially for sexually active individuals, can help detect infections early on and prevent the spread of the disease. Regular testing is vital for individuals under 25 years of age, those with multiple sexual partners, and individuals engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.
  • Partner Communication and Treatment: Open and honest communication with sexual partners is crucial to ensure that both partners are aware of their sexual health status. If one partner tests positive for chlamydia, it is important for both partners to get tested and receive treatment to prevent reinfection and reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Education and Awareness: Being knowledgeable about chlamydia, other sexually transmitted infections, and practicing safe sex measures can help individuals make informed decisions and take proactive steps to protect themselves and their partners.

How To Get Tested or Treated for STDs Online

At CallonDoc, we understand that getting tested or treated for STDs can be embarrassing, but the importance on getting tested or treated for your overall and ongoing health is important to us. That's why we offer unique, affordable, and discreet online STD testing and treatment options. If you or your partner need help with chlamydia or another STD, see how we can help you today from the privacy and comfort of your home.

Source:

  1. “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2021.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/index.htm.
  2. “Detailed STD Facts - Chlamydia.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia-detailed.htm.
  3. “What is Chlamydia? | Causes of Chlamydia Infection.” Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/chlamydia.
  4. “Sexually Transmitted Infections, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding | Office of Research on Women's Health.” Office of Research on Women's Health, https://orwh.od.nih.gov/research/maternal-morbidity-and-mortality/information-for-women/sexually-transmitted-infections.
  5. Patel, Chirag G. DC, MPH*; Trivedi, Shivika MD, MSc; Tao, Guoyu Ph.D. The Proportion of Young Women Tested for Chlamydia Who Had Urogenital Symptoms in Physician Offices. Sexually Transmitted Diseases 45(9):p e72-e74, September 2018, https://journals.lww.com/stdjournal/Fulltext/2018/09000/The_Proportion_of_Young_Women_Tested_for_Chlamydia.15.aspx
  6. Cha, Susan Ph.D., MPH; Newman, Daniel R. MA; Rahman, Mohammad Ph.D., MBBS, MPH*; Peterman, Thomas A. MD, MSc. High Rates of Repeat Chlamydial Infections Among Young Women—Louisiana, 2000–2015. Sexually Transmitted Diseases 46(1):p 52-57, January 2019. https://journals.lww.com/stdjournal/Fulltext/2019/01000/High_Rates_of_Repeat_Chlamydial_Infections_Among.10.aspx

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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