What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is an infection in the urethra, anus and/or cervix uteri, caused by the bacterium ‘Chlamydia trachomatis’. In women, the bacterium can spread upwards from the cervix uteri to the uterine tube and the uterus. In men, it can spread from the urethra to the sperm duct in the testicles, which will result in inflammation in these areas. Chlamydia infections are very common in the UK, and in 2013, more than 200,000 people in England were tested positive for the sexually transmitted disease.


What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Most people are infected with chlamydia without knowing about it. Part of this is because 50 % of men and 75 % of women do not experience any symptoms that point towards any infection. The symptoms can reveal themselves shortly after the infection, but they can also occur years after the initial point of infection. Sudden changes in the abdomen are therefore not necessarily a sign of infection from your latest sexual partner.


In women, symptoms of chlamydia include:

  • Discharge from the urethra and the cervix uteri.

  • Painful urination

  • Patchy bleeding or bleeding during intercourse.

  • Inflammation of the uterine tubes, causing severe stomach pain, fever and pain during intercourse


In men, symptoms of chlamydia include:

  • Clear discharge from the urethra.

  • Painful urination

  • Itching urethra

  • Inflammation in the epididymis causing painful swelling in one side and reddening of the testicles.

  • Inflammation of the rectum causing an irritation of the mucus membrane, cramps in the rectum and discharge.


What are the causes of chlamydia?

The bacterium is spread through direct sexual contact between the mucus membranes of two individuals during intercourse. The contagion can also occur from mother to child during childbirth. The risk of chlamydia infection increases if you have multiple sexual partners and if you have unprotected sex.


How is chlamydia diagnosed?

You can have yourself tested for chlamydia at your GP. In women, it is diagnosed with a cervical examination, where a swab is used to take a sample from the cervix uteri and the urethra, which are then examined for the bacterium. In men, a swab is inserted into the urethra and then examined for the bacterium. As many do not experience any symptoms of the infection, it is recommended to be tested if you:

  • Have had multiple sexual partners

  • Have patchy bleeding or increased discharge

  • Are under 25 years and pregnant

  • Have symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Want an IUD or an abortion.


How is chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. It is sufficient with 1 day’s treatment. You should avoid sex the initial 14 days after the treatment. Moreover, it is recommended to use a condom to avoid becoming infected again, and to inform your previous sexual partners about the risk that they may be infected with chlamydia. If you have the disease and do not undergo treatment with antibiotics, it is presumed that the infection will have cured itself in about 1-2 years. Treatment is recommended as the disease can lead to complications, such as inflammation of the uterine tubes or the epididymis with an increased risk of becoming sterile. For the woman, it also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancies. Furthermore, the infection can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth and give the child eye conjunctivitis and pneumonia. The infection is not connected to foster damage.

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