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Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

An unhappy couple sitting on a couch

Chlamydia (or chlamydia trachomatis) is a bacterial infection that is spread through unprotected sex with an infected person. It can also cause conjunctivitis (an eye infection).

Chlamydia can be passed from one person to another via sexual fluid even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation, that is, your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals or sharing sex toys. This infection infects the urethra in men. In women, it infects the urethra and the cervix.

A pregnant woman can also pass the infection to her newborn baby during delivery.

Chlamydia does not cause problems if you treat it right away. But left untreated, it can lead to serious problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, pneumonia, and even make the person more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are often linked.

What are its symptoms?

Chlamydia symptoms will vary in severity and presentation from case to case, but most people who have chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms.

If you do get symptoms, they usually appear between one to three weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person.

Symptoms in women include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • A change in vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain and/or bleeding during sex
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Heavier periods than usual

Symptoms in men include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Pain in the testicles

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your past health and sexual history, such as how many partners you have had. You may also have a physical exam to look for signs of infection.

Several types of chlamydia tests can be used in diagnosis. Most use a sample of urine or a swab from the cervix, vagina, or urethra.

Since chlamydia can cause serious problems but may not cause symptoms, it’s a good idea to get tested once a year if you are sexually active, especially if you’re in your mid-20s or younger as it is prevalent among young adults.

What are your treatment options?

As chlamydia is caused by bacteria, it can be treated with antibiotics. More than 95 out of 100 people with chlamydia will reportedly be cured if they take their antibiotics correctly.

The two most commonly prescribed antibiotics to treat chlamydia are azithromycin (single dose) and doxycycline (a longer course, usually two capsules a day for a week). Your doctor may prescribe other antibiotics if you have an allergy or are pregnant.

Talk to your doctor or Clicks pharmacist about whether the antibiotics you are given might affect your contraception, if you’re breastfeeding or during pregnancy.

You should not have sex for at least one week after you have finished your antibiotic treatment.

Can it be prevented?

Because chlamydia is a disease that can be spread during sexual intercourse, you can prevent chlamydia by:

  • Not having sex
  • Having sex with only one, uninfected person
  • Using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • Using a dam (a piece of thin, soft plastic or latex) to cover the female genitals during oral sex or when rubbing female genitals together
  • Not sharing sex toys
  • Having regular chlamydia screenings

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Unprotected sex increases your risk of HIV/AIDS. Clicks offers HIV testing and counselling at our clinics, simply call 0860 254 257 or book with Clicks Clinics online to make an appointment.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for condoms

Don't be caught unawares – rather stock up on condoms here so that you can ensure you're practising safe sex at all times.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in May 2015