What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia Trachomatis & LGV (Lymphogranuloma Venereum)
Chlamydia trachomonas is the world’s most common bacterial sexually acquired/transmitted infection
(SAI / STI / STD)
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The following questions are answered by scrolling to the question below.
- What is chlamydia infection?
- Other NAME
- Where does chlamydia come from?
- Different Strains
- How common is Chlamydia?
- Where is Chlamydia found in the body?
- Can chlamydia be cured?
- How is it passed on?
- How long does Chlamydia survive outside the body?
- Can Chlamydia be transmitted to anywhere other than the genital area?
- Can I really pass Chlamydia to my partner without knowing that I have it?
- What is the chance of getting Chlamydia from a single act of unprotected sex with an infected person?
- How long does Chlamydia take to show?
- Can I catch Chlamydia from a toilet seat?
- What about sharing sex toys, towels or other intimate objects?
- What tests are there to check if I’ve got Chlamydia?
- How soon after unprotected sex can I be tested for Chlamydia?
- How accurate are the tests for Chlamydia?
- Can the test show how long I’ve had Chlamydia?
- If I have Chlamydia, should I have tests for other sexual infections, too?
- Is there a link between chlamydia and HIV infection?
- Do I need to be tested after treatment, to make sure I’ve been cured of Chlamydia?
- How much does a Chlamydia test cost?
- What might men notice when they have Chlamydia?
- What might women notice when they have Chlamydia?
- What might a baby show?
- What complications can happen if Chlamydia is not treated?
- Can Chlamydia make me infertile?
- Does Chlamydia affect the baby if a woman has it when she’s pregnant?
- If I’ve had Chlamydia, will I still be able to have a baby?
- What treatment is there if I’ve got Chlamydia?
- Can Chlamydia go away without treatment?
- How soon will I feel normal again after treatment?
- What should I do after I finish my treatment for Chlamydia?
- Will my partner or partners need to be treated for Chlamydia, if I have it?
- Partner Notification
- How can I avoid getting Chlamydia?
- Is there a vaccination against Chlamydia?
- Can I become immune to Chlamydia or can I get it again?
- If I get Chlamydia again, will it present in a similar way?
- Can Chlamydia be transmitted through mutual masturbation?
- What about foreplay and Chlamydia (CT)?
- What about oral sex and Chlamydia?
- What about oral sex and Chlamydia?
- What about vaginal sex and CT?
- What about Anal Sex and Chlamydia?
- Can a woman catch it from sex with other women?
- Can a man catch it from sex with another man?
- Can a child get it?
- Is there a link with cervical cancer?
- What about CT and condoms?
If I use hormonal contraception, will the treatment interfere with my protection?
What is Chlamydia infection?
Chlamydia is the world’s most common bacterial sexually acquired/transmitted infection (SAI / STI / STD).
Chlamydia Trachomatis (CT) is an obligate intracellular bacterium, which behaves like a virus.
There are many different varieties.
( Some seem to show themselves and give their host symptoms, while others seem to hide and linger in the background, causing potential problems for their host’s fertility in the years to come. )
Chlamydia trachomatis, sometimes known as ‘the silent disease’, is generally called chlamydia, which produces chlamydial infection.
Where does chlamydia come from?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of which there are many serovars (strains).
There are several different types of chlamydia. Sexual transmission relates to the group called Chlamydia trachomatis.
It behaves like a virus, replicating inside its host once transmitted. It is notorious for not letting people know that they have been infected, hence its nickname, ‘the silent disease’.
There are at least 32 genetic variants of Chlamydia trachomatis.
- of these, 11 sexual strains are transmitted during unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex; by sharing sex toys and occasionally by not washing hands after intimate contact with an infected person.
Eight strains are predominantly associated with genital sexual transmission and subsequently mother-to-baby infection.
Three strains are associated with LGV (lympho-granuloma venereum) which were previously considered to be tropical strains of Chlamydia trachomatis.
LGV is more commonly found in tropical regions and predominantly causes swollen lymph nodes in the groin.
However, in recent years, these strains have been isolated in London and other capital cities around the world in symptomatic MSM, who practice unprotected anal sex.
This has obvious implications for transmission of HIV and all other sexual infections. (See LGV)
There are four non-sexually acquired strains of chlamydia that are predominantly spread by flies and are associated with eye problems and blindness in developing countries.
Other strains of chlamydia are carried by parrots and cause the lung disease called psittacosis. They are also carried by sheep, cats and other animals.
How common is chlamydia?
In 1999, the World Health Organisation estimated approximately 92,000,000 people are infected with chlamydia, worldwide, every year. That translates to approximately 175 people becoming infected with chlamydia every single minute, around the world.
Chlamydia predominantly (but not exclusively), affects young, sexually-active people under the age of 25, in every part of the world. It doesn’t discriminate and it is increasingly affecting older people, too.
Where is chlamydia found in the body?
Chlamydia is found in warm moist areas of the body:
* in women, these areas are the urethra (urine passage), vagina, cervix and sometimes the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity;
* in men, these areas are the urethra, under the foreskin and, occasionally, the prostate gland;
* in both men and women, chlamydia may also harbour in the rectum (back passage);
* the mouth or throat are rarely affected, but it can affect the eyes of either sex.
Can chlamydia be cured?
Yes. Chlamydia can be completely cured with a short course of antibiotics when it is detected quickly.
Sex, of any sort, must be avoided during treatment and for seven days afterward. Also until a week after any sexual partner(s) have also finished their treatment.
If left untreated, any resultant damage cannot be cured but further damage can be stopped.
How is chlamydia passed on?
Chlamydia is, primarily, a sexually acquired infection. It can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or delivery.
Do any other infections present in a similar way?
Gonorrhoea and NGU (non-gonococcal urethritis – see NGU) may present in a similar way to chlamydia any unusual vaginal or penile discharge or discomfort in passing urine should be analyzed carefully to ensure correct diagnosis.
How long does chlamydia survive outside the human body?
Chlamydia needs its host to survive so does not live outside the human body for more than a few seconds.
Can chlamydia be transmitted to anywhere other than the genital area?
Yes. Chlamydia can be transmitted to other warm moist areas of the body, such as the eye, if accidentally wiped after being in contact with it.
Can I really pass chlamydia to my partner without knowing that I have it?
Yes. Chlamydia is most commonly passed among people who don’t know they are infected or that they are passing it to others.
What is the chance of getting chlamydia from a single act of unprotected sex with an infected person?
It is estimated that a woman’s risk of contracting chlamydia from a single act of intercourse with an infected man is 40 percent and a man’s risk of contracting chlamydia from an infected woman is 20 percent.
How long does chlamydia take to show?
In both men and women, silent, asymptomatic infection with chlamydia is extremely common – that is, an infection which doesn’t show any signs or symptoms to alert its host that it is there.
- if you experience symptoms to alert you that it is there, they usually appear within one to three weeks of transmission.
Chlamydia can lie dormant (stay sleeping) for many years. So, if you don’t get signs or symptoms to alert you to its presence, you could be infected and pass chlamydia to your partner(s) for months or even years before you find out you’ve even been infected.
After contact with someone who may have passed chlamydia to you, it is best to wait two weeks before being tested. if you are tested before then, there is no guarantee that it will be detected by the laboratory. So, a repeat test may be advised.
Could I catch chlamydia from a toilet seat?
No. You cannot catch chlamydia from a toilet seat.
What about sharing sex toys, towels or other intimate objects?
Chlamydia can be transmitted if sex toys are shared between people immediately after use and before they are washed or a condom changed.
- chlamydia is not transmitted between people through shared towels but for reasons of general hygiene, towels and other intimate objects should not be shared.
What tests are there to check if I’ve got chlamydia?
Simple tests, exactly the same as for gonorrhea/gonorrhoea, can be undertaken to check if you’ve been infected with chlamydia. Tests include:
* vaginal swabs for women — sometimes performed by a doctor or nurse. Other times the woman may be asked to insert a special swab into her vagina, in a similar way to how she inserts a tampon, allowing a sample of any discharge to be gathered and sent to the laboratory for analysis;
* urine tests can be taken from women but it is more commonly used to screen men, who don’t have symptoms. It is best not to have passed urine for at least one to two hours before giving a sample;
* urethral swabs for men, who have symptoms, may be taken of any discharge of pus from the penis;
* rectal and throat swabs may be suggested, depending on which sexual activities have taken place and the risks undertaken.
if there is conjunctivitis (inflamed and sore eyes), swabs can also be taken from this area.
How soon after unprotected sex can I be tested for chlamydia?
If you have symptoms you can be tested anytime. Without symptoms, you may not get a definitive answer unless you wait approximately two weeks from the time of exposure.
This delay gives any transmitted bacteria time to multiply sufficiently for reliable analysis.
However, even without symptoms, a baseline test can be performed any time.
How accurate are the tests for chlamydia?
Tests for chlamydia have improved greatly. Rarely, there may be ‘false positive and ‘false negative’ results. The accuracy of any test depends on the sensitivity of the equipment used.
Can the test show how long I’ve had chlamydia?
No. The test for chlamydia does not indicate how long the infection has been present.
However, if you have had a negative test in the past and you receive a positive result now, it is logical to assume transmission was in that time period.
This is, perhaps, a good reason to be screened yearly if you are young and sexually active.
If I have chlamydia, should I have tests for other sexual infections, too?
Yes. Anyone who has chlamydia or is suspected of having it should be thoroughly screened for other infections.
Sexual infections like to ‘hunt in packs’ (co-exist or travel together) making the presence of another infection quite possible.
Is there a link between chlamydia and HIV infection?
Yes. There is an association between chlamydia and both HIV transmission and acquisition. if you have chlamydia you should have an HIV test. They are contracted the same way sexually and infections are often found together.
For best results, if you have recently had unprotected sex with a new partner you may be advised to repeat the HIV test in three months.
Do I need to be tested after treatment, to make sure I’ve been cured of chlamydia?
At the time of writing, the general answer to this question is no, but this may change, and depends on your age and the local clinic’s protocols or advice.
Chlamydia is becoming resistant to the recommended treatment and a test of cure may be advised by the person treating you, on a case by case basis.
If you are particularly worried and want one, you should wait at least six to eight weeks after treatment before repeating the test so that chlamydia remnants are not found.
These may provide a ‘false positive’ reading. In other words, it may still say ‘positive’ when in fact the chlamydia bacteria has been killed but is not completely out of your system.
How much does the chlamydia test cost?
Depending on where in the world you are, and in the interest of public health, tests for STIs are usually free or at a minimal charge. Unless you are seen privately, for which, charges vary according to tests taken and laboratory used for analysis.
What might men notice when they have chlamydia?
Men who have chlamydia may notice one or more of the following:
* a discharge from the tip of the penis;
* the urge to pass urine;
* stinging or pain on passing urine;
* itching around the urethra (urine passage);
* testicular pain or swelling;
* painful ejaculation, suggesting prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland);
* proctitis (inflammation of the rectum), particularly after unprotected anal fingering or penetrative sex.
This increasingly indicates infection with the strain of chlamydia that causes Lympogranuloma venereum or LGV.
However, 50 percent of men have no signs or symptoms and are only diagnosed when their partner informs them that they are carrying it, or they have an opportunistic screening test.
What might women notice if they have chlamydia?
Women who have chlamydia may notice one or more of the following:
* unusual vaginal discharge;
* pain on passing urine;
* abdominal pain;
* painful sex;
* bleeding after sex or between heavier, more painful periods;
* pain or cramps in the stomach or back, particularly during or after sex;
* proctitis or inflammation of the rectum, particularly after unprotected anal fingering or penetrative sex;
* and there may be lower abdominal pain, with which sex may also be uncomfortable.
However, about 70 percent of women have no signs or symptoms.
NOTE: Chlamydia may co-exist with other infections — in particular, Trichomonas vaginalis, genital thrush, (also called Candida or yeast infection) and gonorrhea/gonorrhoea, so these should be screened for, as well.
What might a baby show?
Babies born to mothers infected with chlamydia may develop sore and inflamed sticky eyes – (conjunctivitis) or pneumonia (lung infection), both of which need prompt treatment.
What complications can happen if chlamydia is not treated?
Women with untreated chlamydia may experience one or more of the following:
* inflamed and/or blocked fallopian tubes (salpingitis);
* pelvic inflammatory disease (PID / inflammation of the pelvic cavity), the scarring from which may cause problematic ongoing pelvic pain, even after treatment;
* increased risk of ectopic or tubal pregnancy.
Men with untreated chlamydia can experience one or more of the following:
* tender, inflamed testicles;
* epididymitis or inflammation of the epididymis (the sperm holding area of the testicle);
* prostatitis (inflamed prostate gland);
* and subsequently, painful ejaculation.
Left untreated, both men and women may experience:
* secondary infertility — globally chlamydia is the leading cause of secondary infertility in both sexes;
* joint pains and/or conjunctivitis (sore and inflamed eyes), which together suggest Reiter’s syndrome and SARA (Sexually Acquired Reactive Arthritis);
* AND, according to the World Health Organisation, having one sexually acquired infection results in a 10 times greater risk of contracting HIV if you encounter it whilst infected with something else.
Can chlamydia make me infertile?
Yes. Chlamydia can lead to infertility in both men and women.
Does chlamydia affect the baby if a woman has it when she’s pregnant?
Yes. Chlamydia can contribute to pre-term delivery and low birth weight of a baby. Pregnant women with chlamydia are given treatment and are monitored closely afterwards.
If it is not treated during pregnancy, and chlamydia is present in a mother’s vagina during delivery, it may be passed to the baby.
It can affect baby’s lungs, ears and eyes, causing pneumonia and/or conjunctivitis – which appear as ‘sticky eyes’ – both of which require urgent treatment.
If I’ve had chlamydia, will I still be able to have a baby?
Probably, yes. Many people who have had chlamydia have gone on to have healthy babies when they wanted them.
It is true that there is an increased risk of secondary infertility after having chlamydia or other pelvic infections. However, even if you’ve had PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) and you’ve been told you that you won’t now be able to have a baby because of it, remain cautious.
Unless you were told this information by a reputable gynecologist/gynaecologist, after extensive medical tests confirm that you won’t be able to get pregnant naturally, you should continue to use birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
Pregnancy after having chlamydia can be more risky for some women. The incidence of ectopic or tubal pregnancy is increased.
An unexpected pregnancy of this type can be particularly distressing and requires urgent medical attention.
What treatment is there if I’ve got chlamydia?
Chlamydia is treated with either a single dose or a short course of specific antibiotics.
Can chlamydia go away without treatment?
Occasionally, the immune system destroys chlamydia but if you have it, don’t assume this will happen to you.
Because it can cause long-term health problems and considerable discomfort, treatment is strongly recommended.
How soon will I feel normal again after treatment?
If you experienced chlamydia-related symptoms, it usually takes a few days for the benefits of
medication to be noticed after treatment.
Occasionally, and if PID has occurred, discomfort lingers much longer.
What should I do after I finish my treatment for chlamydia?
After treatment for chlamydia, you and your partner should avoid having sex, of any sort, for seven days.
If you do not wait seven days, treatment has to be repeated and a further seven days of no sex are required. It is quicker and easier to follow instructions properly, the first time!
When you do have sex again, to avoid re-infection, contracting other infections, or developing an unplanned pregnancy, even if you are using another method for contraception, make sure that you always have protected sex in the future – i.e. use a condom.
Will my partner or partners need to be treated for chlamydia, if I have it?
Yes. if you are sexually active with them, your partner(s) most definitely need treatment.
Since chlamydia is a sexually acquired infection, partner notification and treatment are very important.
Unless you recently had a negative chlamydia test and know your present partner passed it to you, any other sexual partners you have had in the last three to six months should be informed, tested and treated as having been in contact with chlamydia.
It is particularly important that your present partner is treated. Otherwise you will be re-exposed to infection until they have been treated.
The aim of partner notification (also called contact tracing) is to prevent you from getting the infection back, or to prevent your partner(s) from spreading the infection to other people.
When you are given treatment for chlamydia, you may be given one or more specially coded pieces of paper called a ‘contact slip’.
These are traditionally anonymous forms, with the infection appearing in code. However, in some places, there is a move towards greater openness and the name of the specific infection appears on the form.
Whichever type of form is used, in the interest of public health, you will be asked to hand one to your partner(s) and they should take it with them when they attend for treatment.
if you are given a coded form, it informs the clinic they attend about their exposure risk without telling your contact which infection you have.
Patient confidentiality means that only you can tell them your diagnosis,but it enables the clinic to give your partner the correct treatment for your particular infection.
They should be tested for that infection specifically, but also screened for other sexual infections, including HIV. There is always a risk of co-infection (additional infection).
How can I avoid getting chlamydia?
See the section on Safer Sex
Is there a vaccination against chlamydia?
No. There is no vaccination against chlamydia at the moment research is happening to develop one.
Can I become immune to chlamydia or can I get it again?
No. No-one can become immune to chlamydia. Once you have been treated, you can catch it again.
If I get chlamydia again, will it present in a similar way?
if you get chlamydia again it can either present as it did this time, if you had symptoms, or it may be asymptomatic (have no symptoms).
Can chlamydia be transmitted through mutual masturbation?
Yes. Chlamydia can be transmitted through mutual masturbation with an infected person.
What about foreplay and chlamydia?
If Chlamydia is present at the areas touched during foreplay, it can be transmitted between people during foreplay.
What about oral sex and chlamydia?
Chlamydia may be transmitted through unprotected oral sex, even though the mouth is not an area in which it is generally detected.
What about vaginal sex and chlamydia?
Chlamydia lives inside the cervix (neck of the womb) within the vagina and is commonly transmitted during unprotected vaginal sex with an infected partner.
What about anal sex and chlamydia?
Chlamydia is easily transmitted to or from the anus and rectum during unprotected anal sex.
Can a woman catch chlamydia if she has sex with other women?
Yes. A woman can pass chlamydia to another woman if they have unprotected vulva to vulva contact.
Can a man catch chlamydia if he has sex with other men?
Yes. A man can pass chlamydia to another man if they have unprotected anal sex.
The LGV (lymphogramuloma venereum) strain of chlamydia is increasingly transmitted between MSM (men who have sex with other men). (See LGV)
Can a child get chlamydia?
Yes. Chlamydia can be passed to children. if the mother is infected it can spread during childbirth through ‘mother-to-baby’ contact.
Other than that, the presence of chlamydia in anyone older than a newborn baby should raise concerns about possible sexual abuse or sexual activity.
Chlamydia in young children may indicate sexual abuse and for reasons of Child Protection should be investigated carefully.
Chlamydia in young teenagers and young adults suggests sexual
activity, or sexual abuse, and should, as for young children, be investigated carefully.
Is there a link between chlamydia and cervical cancer?
It is thought that chlamydia may be one of several factors in the development of abnormal cervical cells, which, with time, may develop into cervical cancer.
Young women, who have had chlamydia should attend for cervical smear (pap) tests when advised to do so.
What about chlamydia and condoms?
Condoms can prevent chlamydia when used correctly and consistently.
They are the only method to protect against pregnancy and sexual infection but they must be used consistently and correctly each time they are required.
Remember: condoms can only protect the areas they cover or are in contact with at the time, not other areas. They can’t protect areas where there is skin-to-skin contact, such as the groin, vulva, testicles, etc.
If I use hormonal contraception, will the treatment interfere with my protection?
See the section on Safer Sex
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