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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that is particularly common in teenagers and young adults. The infection is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and is spread by having unprotected sex.

How Do You Get Chlamydia?

The most common way to catch chlamydia is by having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone who is already infected. It is also possible to get chlamydia without actually having intercourse since it can be passed on when the infected semen or vaginal fluid comes into contact with the genitals. Also, if sex toys are not washed properly or not covered with a condom before using, then this is another way for the infection to pass from one person to another. During childbirth, it is also possible to pass the infection onto the baby.

Symptoms Of Chlamydia

Most people do not show any symptoms of the chlamydia infection, so they are unlikely to even know they have chlamydia. If symptoms do occur, in women they can include a sore tummy, painful urination, an unusual discharge from the vagina or bottom, bleeding during or after sex and between periods, and heavier than normal periods. In men, symptoms can include pain when urinating, abnormal discharge from the penis or the bottom, or painful and swollen testicles.

If untreated, chlamydia may result in a number of complications. In women, the infection may spread into the upper genital tract, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease which, in turn, may lead to further problems, such as ectopic pregnancies and infertility. In men, the testicles and the epididymis (a tube that stores and carries sperm) can become swollen, which can result in fertility problems.

Diagnosis

If you are worried you may have chlamydia, it is easy to get tested for the infection at your GP or sexual health clinic, using a simple and painless urine test or swab test. The cells obtained will be analysed, and 7-10 days later the results will be available.

Chlamydia Treatment

It is easy to treat chlamydia with a short course of antibiotics, resulting in successful treatment in over 95% of cases. One such antibiotic is azithromycin which is taken as a single dose, while an alternative antibiotic is doxycycline which is taken once daily for one week. A different antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, would be used if a woman was pregnant or breastfeeding, and a longer course of treatment would be recommended if any complications resulted from the infection.

To ensure the greatest likelihood of success in chlamydia treatment, any current sexual partners must also be treated, and you should refrain from having sex for at least one week after the single dose therapy or wait until the completion of the week-long therapy. To help stop the spread of chlamydia, it is also advisable to let any previous sexual partners you have had in the last six months know so they can be tested and treated, if necessary.

Chlamydia Prevention

One of the most effective ways to avoid catching chlamydia is to use a condom during vaginal, oral or anal sex. This is particularly important with a new partner because this is when you are at the greatest risk of catching chlamydia.

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