Chlamydia is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease (STD) in America, caused by the bacteriumchlamydia trachomatis.
The curable infection, which affects up to one in ten sexually active young people and up to three to four million people each year, is found in the semen and vaginal fluids and is usually spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.
Chlamydia is often referred to as the “silent infection” as it often remains undiagnosed because there are usually either no symptoms or they are so mild, that they can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Symptoms can take anywhere between one to three weeks to appear, or several months later, or only when the infection has spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating and an abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina. Men can suffer from swollen or painful testicles and women may experience vaginal bleeding between periods or during or after sex, as well as lower abdominal pain.
The “quiet love bug” is often confused with gonorrhea because the symptoms of both diseases are similar.
Testing involves taking a sample of cells using a swab (like a cotton bud) from the vagina or urethra, or from the rectun or throat if you have had anal or oral sex. A urine sample may also be tested. If you have symptoms of conjunctivitus (discharge from the eye), your eyes will also be tested.
Chlamydia can successfully be treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, the infection can pose serious health threats including pregnancy complications, infertility and athritis.
A mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is one way to avoid the infection and every time you have a new sexual partner you should be tested. Using condoms during intercourse usually prevents infection.
“The quiet love bug” was first seen under a microscope in 1907, but it was already documented in a 5,000-year-old Egyptian document called the Ebers Papyrus.
Today infection of the eyes by a strain of chlamydia is the leading cause of preventable blindness in developing nations. In ancient times treatment for this involved using a combination of castor oil tree leaves, goose grease and breast milk! Interestingly, breast milk is known to have anti-chlamydial activity, according to a 1997 report.
Read here about gonorrhea, genital herpes and about how Facebook may be the cause of the increase of the sexually transmitted disease syphillis.
Images: Wikimedia Commons