Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD for short), also known as a venereal disease. The disease is spread through unprotected sex. In the early stages, a chlamydia infection usually causes few or no symptoms. Chlamydia symptoms may appear after a few days or even weeks. An STD such as chlamydia does not heal on its own. Fortunately, the condition is treatable.
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What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs. The condition is caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis. This pathogen leads to infections in the mucous membranes of the vagina, urethra, cervix, anus or throat.
A chlamydia infection can often go undetected. Women in particular usually have no symptoms which makes it easy for someone with chlamydia to infect another person without knowing. Furthermore, untreated chlamydia can cause more serious health problems in the long run.
Chlamydia is especially prevalent among young adults. It is also slightly more common in straight men and women than in men who have sex with men.
Like many other STDs, chlamydia usually goes undetected. About three quarters of infected women and half of infected men do not notice much of an infection. Those who do get symptoms only notice after a few weeks. If chlamydia is left untreated, the disease can spread. This can lead to more serious health problems in the long run.
The most common symptoms of chlamydia are:
In both men and women:
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating;
- Itching and/or pain in the anus;
- Mucous or pus-like discharge in stools;
- Uncommon: laryngitis after oral sex;
- Uncommon: joint pain;
- However, some men and women never get any symptoms.
There are also chlamydia symptoms that occur only in women and only in men.
Chlamydia symptoms in women:
- Pain in the lower abdomen;
- Vaginal discharge (stronger smell or increased amount)
- Pain during sex;
- Vaginal bleeding outside of menstruation;
- In pregnant women: higher risk of premature birth or low birth weight in the child. During childbirth, the child can contract chlamydia and therefore develop an eye infection or pneumonia;
- Long-term effects: inflammation of the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes. If the fallopian tubes are blocked by inflammation, there is an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy and reduced fertility.
Chlamydia symptoms in men:
- ‘Leaking’ discharge from the penis, especially in the morning. The discharge may be transparent to yellow-green in colour;
- Pain in the scrotum;
- Long-term effects: prostatitis or epididymis, temporary reduced fertility.
Chlamydia is spread through unprotected sex, or sex without a condom. The chance of an infection through oral sex is quite small; most infections occur during genital contact or during anal sex.
Safe sex plays the most important role in the prevention of chlamydia, so always use a condom.
Certain symptoms of chlamydia are also reported in other conditions, such as cystitis or gonorrhoea. A chlamydia test can provide a definitive answer. In any case, do a test as soon as possible if you have chlamydia symptoms. If you have no symptoms but have had unprotected sex, an STD test is always recommended. Of course, an STD test is also advisable if you learn that a (former) sexual partner is infected with chlamydia or another venereal disease.
You can visit a doctor for a chlamydia test. This test requires a urine sample (in men only) or a swab of mucus from the vagina, throat, urethra or anus. The sample will be checked for chlamydia in a laboratory.
Reliable chlamydia self-tests are now also available. If your chlamydia test result is negative but problems persist you should seek medical advice.
If the result is positive, seek treatment immediately, even if you have no symptoms (yet)! In that case, you should also test for other STDs. There is a chance that you could still have a venereal disease.
Note: the chlamydia incubation period
Note: it takes about 3 weeks for the chlamydia bacterium to become detectable by a test. Take the 'chlamydia incubation time' into account and only test 3 weeks after a possible infection has occurred. Testing too early may give a false negative result.
If you are already suffering from chlamydia symptoms during those three weeks, it is possible to test earlier. If necessary, discuss this with a doctor or pharmacist.
What to do if you have chlamydia?
Get treatment as soon as possible if the test shows that you have chlamydia. This prevents the disease from spreading. Also inform your partner(s) about the infection; he or she will also have to be tested. You should also inform anyone you had sexual contact in the six months before you tested positive.
A chlamydia infection does not go away on its own, even if there are few or no symptoms. Since this STD is caused by a bacterium, a course of antibiotics is the only solution. Chlamydia antibiotics are drugs that kill the chlamydia bacteria.
Well-known chlamydia drugs include:
- Azithromycin. Chlamydia antibiotic treatment with this drug usually only lasts 1 day;
- Doxycycline. Chlamydia antibiotic treatment with this drug usually lasts a week.
Usually your (regular) partner will also receive treatment at the same time.
Chlamydia treatment: important information
Keep the following in mind during treatment for chlamydia:
- Medications against chlamydia can cause side effects. In most cases this includes gastrointestinal problems, headaches and dizziness. Don’t forget to read the information leaflet provided with your medicine. Here, you’ll find more information about the use of antibiotics and the possible side effects;
- Complete the full course of treatment, even if you no longer have any symptoms. If you interrupt the course, the STD may return;
- Consult a doctor if you are still experiencing symptoms after treatment;
- You can still be contagious for a week after the treatment. You should therefore avoid having sex during that week;
- A course of antibiotics does not make you resistant to chlamydia bacteria. This means that you can contract the STD again if you have sex with an infected person. Therefore, always have sex with a condom to prevent a new chlamydia infection.
Do you have questions about chlamydia or chlamydia treatment? A doctor or pharmacist will be happy to help you.
Prescription chlamydia drugs
Many medicines for chlamydia require a prescription. You can request a suitable course of treatment at Dokteronline. Your request will be assessed by a doctor based on the medical questionnaire you have completed. A written prescription will then be forwarded to a pharmacy, after which the prescribed medication will be discreetly delivered to your home.
Would you like more information about treatments against chlamydia? Feel free to consult a doctor or pharmacist.