Chlamydia is the most common STI worldwide. It is a bacterial infection which usually co-infects along with Gonorrhoea. Chlamydia often does not show symptoms but may lead to several kinds of infections in anus, make women infertile.

Young people below the age of 25 and men who have sex with men (MSM) are at a greater risk of contracting the disease. Given the no show of symptoms, ease of treatment and serious complications that may be caused by untreated infection, the at-risk population is advised to be screened regularly for Chlamydia.

MSM and Chlamydia

Men who have sex with men are one of the at risk population category of acquiring Chlamydia, or suffering serious consequences of untreated Chlamydia. Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), another type of STD caused by different serovars of the same bacterium, occurs commonly in the developing countries including India, and has more recently emerged as a cause of outbreaks of proctitis among men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide, according to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

How is Chlamydia spread?

Chlamydia is spread majorly through sexual contact with the infected anus, vagina or penis of a partner. It can also be transmitted during oral sex.

An infected person can spread Chlamydia to their eyes by touching them with hands which have been exposed to the Chlamydial bacteria while scratching or rubbing the affected organ.

It can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby at the time of childbirth.

Chlamydia is however not spread through casual contact like shaking hands, sharing towels, kissing, sharing a toilet seat etc.

What are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Chlamydia often does not show any symptoms.

They can, however, appear after several weeks of infection in case of people who do show some symptoms of the disease.

These symptoms are similar to Gonorrhoea and in women may take the form of unusual vaginal discharge, pain during penetrative sex, burning sensation at the time of urinating, pain in the pelvic muscle or abdomen.

In men it may manifest into pus like discharge from the penis or burning sensation at the time of urinating. Men may also show signs of testicular swelling or pain although it is not very common.

If spread to eyes it can lead to Chlamydial conjunctivitis.

What can Chlamydia lead to?

Although asymptomatic, untreated Chlamydia can lead to serious consequences.

In women it can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which may even cause permanent damage to fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissues. These can lead to serious consequences like chronic pelvic pain, infertility or ectopic pregnancy (where the baby grows outside the womb).
Pregnant women may face pre-term delivery due to Chlamydia. There is also risk of the new born baby suffering from acute conjunctivitis and pneumonia due to transmission of the infection to it from an infected mother.
Both men and women may develop arthritis due to Chlamydia.
Chlamydia also puts a person at a greater risk of being infected with HIV.

Who is at the greatest risk?

All sexually active women below the age of 25, and men who have sex with men are recommended to get tested once a year due to the higher risk factor involved due to biological, behavioural and cultural reasons. Apart from that, you should get tested for Chlamydia if:

  1. You had unprotected sex
  2. You are sexually active and have multiple sexual partners
  3. If your partner is infected with Chlamydia
  4. You are pregnant
  5. You show the listed symptoms in any form

How is Chlamydia diagnosed?

Chlamydia is diagnosed through

    • For women, doctor may take a swab test, where by s/he may collect a sample of fluid generated in your cervix to test for Chlamydial bacteria.Women can also use kits to collect the swab themselves to get it tested by the healthcare provider.For men, doctor may insert a slim swab into the end of their penis to get a sample from the urethra. In some cases, the doctor may swab the anus.
    • Urine test may also be used to indicate the presence of this infection.

If you have been treated for an initial Chlamydia infection, you should be retested in three months.

How is Chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is one of the curable STIs and can be easily treated with antibiotics. In most cases, the infection resolves within one to two weeks. During that time, you should abstain from sex. Your sexual partner or partners also need treatment even if they have no signs or symptoms. Otherwise, the infection can be passed back and forth between sexual partners.

Having Chlamydia or having been treated for it in the past provides no immunity against re-infection in the future.

How can you prevent Chlamydia infection?

The risk of Chlamydia can be minimized through the following ways:

  1. Use of condoms and dental dams to have protected sex
  2. Having a long term stable partner who has been tested to be uninfected