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Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. An estimated 2,291,000 U.S. civilians ages 14-39 are infected with Chlamydia based on the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and women are frequently re-infected if their sex partners are not treated.
Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of Chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur silently before a woman ever recognizes a problem.
Chlamydia can be transmitted during sex. It also can be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.
Any sexually active person can be infected with Chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection. Because the cervix of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured and is probably more susceptible to infection, they are at particularly high risk for infection if sexually active.
Chlamydia is known as a “silent” disease because about three quarters of infected women and about half of infected men have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within one to three weeks after exposure. Women might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating, low abdominal pain or low back pain, nausea, fever or bleeding between menstrual periods.
Men with signs and symptoms might have a burning sensation when urinating. Pain and swelling are uncommon.
If untreated, chlamydial infections can progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences. In women, untreated infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. PID can cause chronic pelvic pain, infertility and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy.
Annual screening is recommended for all sexually active women age 25 and younger or for older women with certain risk factors.
Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. All sex partners should be evaluated, tested and treated. Persons with Chlamydia should abstain from sexual intercourse until they and their partners have completed treatment, otherwise re-infection is possible.
For more information on sexually transmitted diseases, call the LaRue County Health Department at 358-3844 to speak with a registered nurse or come to the health department 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.