What is it?
Chlamydia is actually a group of different infections caused by different strains of the Chlamydia bacterium. Though Chlamydia pneumonia can cause a type of walking pneumonia, and Chlamydia psittaci can cause a type of pneumonia caused by birds, it is Chlamydia trachomatis that causes various sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia is currently the most common STD.
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(Compare this discharge to that seen in gonorrhea.)
Common Signs & Symptoms
Chlamydia can cause asymptomatic (no symptoms) infections in both men and women. In men it can cause groin pain and swelling (epididymitis) as well as burning on urination (so called, non-gonoccocal urethritis (NGU)). In prepubertal girls, it can cause a mild vaginal discharge and odor (called vaginitis); in postpubertal women it can cause an off-white discharge and odor which comes from an infected cervix. In women, it can be especially dangerous because it can silently linger for months and progress to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which can lead to infertility, chronic pain, and even death. Even babies can get this infection: one half of all babies being delivered through the birth canal of an infected women will develop a Chlamydial conjunctivitis (pink eye) a week after birth. About a quarter of babies passing down the infected birth canal will get a Chlamydia pneumonia. Certain strains of Chlamydia trachomatis can get into the skin through minute cuts and cause a disease known as Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV). This disease has a number of stages from a mild swollen groin lymph node to fever and chills. After months to years, LGV can spread to other lymph nodes causing pain, swelling, skin breakdown (ulceration as pictured) and other problems involving ones rectum and genitals.
How’s it Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made by isolating the Chlamydia bacteria in a culture, or by finding evidence of the bacteria’s unique DNA in a urine or vaginal sample. On women, a speculum exam is performed by the doctor; a cervical sample is obtained and sent to the laboratory for analysis. In men, a smaller swab will be inserted in the meatus (or, newer studies are showing that a urine sample can be used instead.)
How’s it Treated?
A number of antibiotics in the Erythromycin family will kill and hence cure Chlamydial infections. The trick is to get diagnosed, as quite commonly those infected are unaware.
How do I avoid Getting It (Prevention)?
Abstinence or correct condom use will prevent transmission of this bacteria from one person to the next. Pregnant women who have had more than one sexual partner should be checked by their physician to be sure they do not have an asymptomatic infection.
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