|How can I get Chlamydial Infection?|
|What Are the Symptoms?|
|How Does the Doctor Diagnose Chlamydial Infection?|
|How is Chlamydial Infection Treated?|
|What Can Happen if the Infection is Not Treated?|
|Can Chlamydial Infection Affect a Newborn Baby?|
|How Can I Prevent Getting Chlamydial Infection?|
Chlamydial ("kla-MID-ee-uhl") infection is a curable sexually transmitted disease (STD), which is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. However, testing positive for chlamydia means that you are 300% - 500% more susceptible to HIV, if exposed.  Chlamydial infection is one of the most widespread bacterial STDs in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 4 million people are infected each year. 
During oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected partner. You can get infected even if you don't exchange body fluids during sexual contact.
Newborn babies can get infected when they pass through the mother's infected birth canal.[ To Top ]
Most women rarely experience any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they will usually appear between 7 and 21 days after exposure.
Some symptoms may include:
It is important to be aware of these symptoms, so chlamydia does not go untreated. Since many symptoms are so mild and rare, most often the STI is not detected until complications begin to occur.?[ To Top ]
Chlamydial infection is easily confused with gonorrhea because the symptoms of both diseases are similar and the diseases can occur together, though rarely.
The most reliable way to find out whether the infection is chlamydial is through laboratory tests. Usually, a doctor or other health care worker will send a sample of pus from the vagina or penis to a laboratory that will first culture and grow the bacteria and then test the cultures for chlamydia. This method, however, is expensive and technically difficult. Results can take up to 3 days.
Another method is the direct fluorescent antibody test (DFA). This oldest alternative to culture uses a scientific method called staining to make chlamydia easier to spot under a microscope. DFA can give quicker results than culture and can be performed on specimens taken from the eye, cervix or penis.
Enzyme immunoassays come in some forms that allow use in small, unsophisticated laboratories that don't have special lab equipment. Because testing can be done where the specimen is collected, results are more rapid than with the traditional culture method, access to testing is increased, and costs can be lower.
Tests to detect the genes of C. trachomatis keep in italics in urine, as well as genital, samples have been developed and approved in the last few years. These tests can accurately identify even very small numbers of genes in a specimen. These tests can be expensive, but are becoming more popular among public and other labs because of their accuracy and the relative ease of collecting urine samples. Results from the urine test are available within 24 hours.[ To Top ]
If you are infected with C. trachomatis, your doctor or other health care worker will probably give you a prescription for an antibiotic:
Doctors may treat pregnant women with azithromycin or erythromycin, or sometimes, with amoxicillin. Penicillin, which doctors often use to treat some other STDs, won't cure chlamydial infections.If you have chlamydial infection:
Take all of the prescribed medicine, even after symptoms disappear! If the symptoms do not disappear within one to two weeks after finishing the medicine, go to your doctor or clinic again. It is very important to tell your sex partners that you have chlamydial infection so that they can be tested and treated.[ To Top ]
The infection may move inside the body if it is not treated. There, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) epidydimitis, two very serious illnesses.
In men, untreated chlamydial infections may lead to pain or swelling in the scrotal area, which is a sign of inflammation of a part of the male reproductive system located near the testicles known as the epididymis. Left untreated, these complications can prevent people from having children.
Each year up to 1 million women in the United States develop PID, a serious infection of the reproductive organs. As many as half of all cases of PID may be due to chlamydial infection, and many of these don't have symptoms. PID can cause scarring ofthe fallopian tubes which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. Researchers estimate that 100,000 women each year become infertile because of PID.
In other cases, scarring may interfere with the passage of the fertilized egg to the uterus during pregnancy. When this happens, the egg may attach itself to the fallopian tube. This is called ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This very serious condition results in a miscarriage and can cause death of the mother.[ To Top ]
A baby who is exposed to C. trachomatis in the birth canal during delivery may develop an eye infection or pneumonia. Symptoms of conjunctivitis or "pink eye," which include discharge and swollen eyelids, usually develop within the first 10 days of life.
Symptoms of pneumonia, including a cough that gets steadily worse, most often develop within three to six weeks of birth. Doctors can treat both conditions successfully with antibiotics. Because of these risks to the newborn, many doctors recommend that all pregnant women get tested for chlamydial infection.[ To Top ]
Abstain from sexual activity.
Using male latex condoms correctly every time you have sex.
If you are infected but have no symptoms, you may pass the bacteria to your sex partners without knowing it. Therefore, many doctors recommend that anyone who has more than one sex partner, especially women under 25 years of age, be tested for chlamydial infection regularly, even if they don't have symptoms. (See http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1999/499_std.html#tested )[ To Top ]
Widespread chlamydia screening among women can get results, as was demonstrated in a recent study supported by NIH. Researchers at Seattle's Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound and the University of Washington found that symptomless women who were screened and treated for chlamydial infection were almost 60 percent less likely than unscreened women to develop pelvic inflammatory disease.
With such effective tools for screening and treatment, why has it proved so difficult to stop the spread of this microorganism? The answer, experts agree, is that not enough at-risk young people are getting tested.
"There are about a million reasons people don't get tested," says Diane Mitchell, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist and medical reviewer with the Food and Drug Administration. "They might feel uncomfortable, or not have insurance, or just not know they should be tested for chlamydia."
Also, doctors often fail to discuss the issue of sexually transmitted diseases with their young patients, according to Gale Burstein, M.D., a chlamydia researcher at Johns Hopkins University.? "A sexually active adolescent woman is more likely to test positive for chlamydia than for tuberculosis, yet TB tests are done much more routinely".
Beyond encouraging more young people to get routinely screened for chlamydia, experts are searching for other avenues to control this sexually transmitted disease. Scientists are looking for better ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent chlamydial infections. NIAID supported scientists at Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco recently completed sequencing the genome for C. trachomatis. The sequence represents an encyclopedia of information about the organism. This accomplishment will give scientists important information as they try to develop new antibiotics as well as a safe and effective vaccine.[ To Top ]