Chlamydia - Tests and Treatment

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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that affects men and women. It can lead to other diseases - even infertility. Often, there are no symptoms. Know the causes. Know the cure.

Chlamydia is a curable sexually transmitted disease that affects Hispanics in greater rates than any other segment of the U.S. population.

Jackie Provost of the California Family Health Council says, “Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease and STD. It can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s basically contact with discharge of semen and vaginal fluids that can transmit the disease.” Even an infant can also get Chlamydia from an infected mother during pregnancy.

“Chlamydia right now, is the number one reported disease in the United States. For 2006, they’ve reported over one million cases of Chlamydia,” says Provost.

60% of U.S. cases involve people under 25. 75% of those affected are women. Hispanics with this disease outnumber whites 3 to 1.

“Adolescents under the age of 25, have the highest rates. They account for more than 60% of the Chlamydia cases in the country, specifically women. Chlamydia infections have high incidence in women, about three times more than men,” says Provost.

For more information about Chlamydia, go to: http://www.dontthinkknow.org

“We’ve recently launched a media campaign called ‘I Know,’ and the ‘I Know’ campaign is basically asking, ‘Do you know your status? Have you been tested for Chlamydia?’ There is also a website connected to that campaign that’s called, dontthinkknow.org and at that website you can get more information about Chlamydia and the problems associated with this disease. It also gives you a listing of clinics where you can go to get tested,” says Provost.

They’ve received a lot of feedback from kids saying they want their parents to talk to them about Chlamydia and other STDs.

The organization is also reaching out nationwide. Teenagers can visit Teen Source.org to access information about sex education, whether it is information on STD’s, information on what happens at a family planning visit, or issues of care. Other sources to visit are www.CDC.gov for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the web pages of your local health department.

Half of the men and three quarters of women have no symptoms.

Chlamydia is called a “Silent Epidemic” because 75% of the women and 50% of the men with the disease have no symptoms.

“Chlamydia, being a bacterial STD, can be treated and it is curable. Unfortunately, statistics show that 75% of women and 50% of men do not have symptoms. This is one of the major issues with Chlamydia, a lot of women, and a lot of men do not know that they have it,” says Provost.

What are the Symptoms of Chlamydia when they are present? :

  • Vaginal or penile discharges
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Women may experience lower abdominal pain or pain during intercourse
  • Bleeding during intercourse and bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Men may experience burning and itching around the opening of the penis and/or pain and swelling in the testicles

Symptoms of Chlamydia may appear within one to three weeks after being infected.

That’s why experts say you should get tested. A simple urine sample is all they need.

When you go in for your regular Pap smear, ask them to test you for STD’s.  “A lot of women can also receive a Chlamydia test by a cervical swab and that’s basically something that is done during a pelvic exam,” says Provost.

Untreated Chlamydia in women leads to:

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Infection of uterus
  • Infection of ovaries
  • Infection of fallopian tubes
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Infertility
  • Abnormal pregnancies

“Untreated Chlamydia can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, or PID. PID is basically an infection of the reproductive organs of the woman. So that’s your uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, any reproductive organs of your upper track can be affected by PID. That can lead to chronic pelvic pain, it can lead to infertility and it can also lead to ectopic pregnancies for pregnant women. This means that the pregnancy grows outside of the uterus, which can be fatal. 40% of Chlamydia that goes untreated leads to PID and then about 20% of those cases of PID lead to infertility,” explains Provost. In men, untreated Chlamydia can affect the testicles and ultimately lead to infertility.  

One of the most important reasons to get screened and treated is because Chlamydia can increase the risk of acquiring HIV.

Prevent Chlamydia by:

  • Abstaining from sex
  • Use of condoms, female condoms and dental dams

“Being that Chlamydia is a bacterial STD, it can be prevented. The number one way of preventing any STD is to abstain from sex. As well as using barrier methods such as condoms and a female condom. If you’re performing oral sex, a dental dam is definitely successful in preventing the transmission of the disease,” says Provost.

A single dose of Azithromycin will cure you of Chlamydia.  

Experts are advising women, that not insisting your partner use a condom because you fear that he will physically abuse or leave you puts you at greater risk for Chlamydia, other STD’s, and HIV.

The cure is simple – a single dose of an antibiotic called Azithromycin will cure you of Chlamydia.

Do not have sex for seven days after treatment or you can be easily re-infected.

“After the one dose treatment, you are to abstain from sex for the next seven days. That is probably the most important aspect of the treatment for Chlamydia- the fact that people do not abstain from sex for seven days – is usually the reason that they are  re-infected,” adds Provost.

Make sure your sexual partner, or partners, also get tested and treated.

Provost adds, “What’s important is that the person also contacts their partner, or partners, and that they are treated as well. This is just to reduce the risk of re-infection of the disease and to prevent spreading of the disease.”

Now, the doctor can legally prescribe a medicine for both you and your partner without seeing the two of you. Most likely, you can get the treatment at the same place you got tested, or any doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital.

Low cost or free treatment options:

  • Medicaid
  • Medical
  • Family PACT Program

You can check with:

  • Your health-care provider
  • Family planning clinic
  • Local hospital
  • County health department  

“Being from a lower income background definitely is not a barrier to care. There are numerous government programs that can support your care for Chlamydia treatment or any STD care in general. Those programs are Medicaid and, here in California, we have Medical or the FamPACT program that provides these services for free if you qualify,” say Provost.  

Provost reminds us of the importance of getting help. “One thing that we definitely suggest is to go to your provider, go to a family planning clinic, go to your local hospital, your local county department or health department, or hospitals and seek what options are available for you. More than likely there is something that you can afford or that can be provided for you,” she says.  

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