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  • Dr Peter Chew

Chlamydia Revisit: Symptoms, signs, diagnosis and treatment

What is it?

Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease, caused by the bacteria,


Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be spread by sharing unclean sex toys.


Chlamydia can be transmitted to the new-borns during delivery and cause serious eye and lung infections.


Chlamydia usually infects the cervix (neck of the womb), urethra (urinary passage) and occasionally rectum, throat and eye.


Symptoms and signs


Chlamydia infection is usually asymptomatic. As a result, patients often spread the disease without realising it. These patients are also less likely to be diagnosed with the disease and thus may miss the opportunity for early treatment.


The incubation period of the disease varies from 2-21 days after exposure.


Symptoms in women include

· Abnormal smelly yellowish vaginal discharge

· A burning sensation while urinating

· Pain during intercourse

· Lower abdominal pain, nausea, or fever.

· Bleeding between periods

Symptoms in men include:

· Discharge from the penis

· A burning sensation when passing urine

· Burning or itching around the opening of the penis

· Occasional pain and swelling in one or both testicles

· Pain, discharge, and/or bleeding from the rectum.


Chlamydia if left untreated can travel up the upper genital tract, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) resulting in infertility or ectopic pregnancy. In men, testicular infection and low sperm count may result.


Diagnosis

Laboratory tests are usually done from swabs collected from the urinary passage, vaginal and cervical discharge and rectum or throat.


Blood tests are not recommended as they can be non-specific and can give false positive results.


The tests should be done 24 hours after exposure and repeated two weeks later. A retest should also be done two weeks after completing the treatment to ensure that the bacteria is completely cleared.


Treatment


Chlamydia can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Couple should be treated together. They should abstain from sexual activity for one week after finishing the antibiotics.

Reinfection can occur and should be treated promptly.