See a doctor or go to a clinic if you if you've engaged in high-risk sexual activity, whether or not you have developed symptoms. If you've recently engaged in high-risk sexual activity (sex without a condom, sex with someone you think might be infected, etc), you should be tested. If you notice any unusual discharge or lesions on your pubic area, definitely make an appointment to see your health provider. You will be checked for tenderness, swelling, and pain in the groin, or other parts of the body. Mention any possible exposure to chlamydia you may have had in recent months.
Patients with chlamydia do not need to be hospitalized unless potentially dangerous complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) develop. In patients who develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), hospitalization may be necessary.
PID is disease of the female upper reproductive tract (uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes) that is primarily caused by sexually transmitted bacterial infections. The usual symptoms of PID are fever, chills, lower abdominal and pelvic pain, and vaginal discharge or bleeding. You may also have nausea and vomitting. Over time, it can also cause infertility, which is the inability to have children. Approximately 50% of all PID cases are thought to be the result of a chlamydia infection. PID is the single most important risk factor for tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. A tubal pregnancy happens when the embryo implants and starts growing someplace outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. This can cause a life-threatening rupture of the tube. The massive internal bleeding that an ectopic pregnancy often causes can result in death.
Particularly when caused by chlamydial infection, PID may produce only minor symptoms or no symptoms at all, even though it can seriously damage the reproductive organs.
Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers should be treated promptly if chlamydia is suspected. Studies show that infected pregnant women who receive prompt antibiotic therapy have significantly lower rates of premature delivery, rupture of membranes, and low birth weight.
Pregnant mothers infected with chlamydia can pass the disease on to their newborns. Chlamydia infection can cause early labor and delivery, and can be passed from mother to baby during birth. Between 20% and 50% of newborn infants can develop an eye infection (chlamydial conjunctivitis) and pneumonia if mothers are not treated promptly. Symptoms of chlamydial conjunctivitis usually begin within four weeks of birth but it can be successfully treated with antibiotics. In extremely rare situations, the conjunctivitis can cause blindness. Chlamydial pneumonia is a serious infection, but it also usually responds to antibiotics.
It is possible to have chlamydia and another STD at the same time. Before you are treated, all other infections must be identified in order for you to receive the right antibiotic. If you are currently being treated for another sexually transmitted disease, tell your doctor. Gonorrhea, another common STD, is often seen in patients who also have chlamydia.
Chlamydia is usually completely curable, especially when it is treated in the early stages. Chlamydia is often eliminated through a single dose of antibiotics. This single dose can be a packet of powder that you mix with water, which you then drink, or it can be several capsules taken at one time. You could be prescribed a course of antibiotics to take over the period of a week. Either method is effective. In pregnant women, antibiotic treatment is successful in nine out of ten cases.
Treatment can fail, usually because of reinfection by untreated sex partners, or not taking your medication as directed.
If left untreated, chlamydia can cause serious complications, including infertility. Untreated chlamydia infections can spread to the pelvic area and infect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women. PID may cause permanent damage to a woman's reproductive organs, and can lead to infertililty, chronic pelvic pain, and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy happens when the embryo starts growing outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. As the fetus develops, it can cause a life-threatening rupture of the tube.
Swollen, painful testicles (orchitis) occur in men if chlamydia remains untreated. Chlamydia can cause sterility in men and an inflammation of the duct that drains the testis (epididymitis). Chlamydia can also increase the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. This is because the immune cells that gather together in the genitals to fight off the chlamydia infection are the type of cells that HIV infects.
Patients who do not respond to antibiotic treatment or who are treated in later stages of disease are more likely to be infertile than those who receive prompt attention.
Patients with chlamydia can also develop reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter's syndrome. Reiter's syndrome is a form of arthritis that produces pain, swelling, redness, and heat in the joints. It can also produce inflammation of the urinary tract and eyes. Reiter's syndrome commonly involves the joints of the spine and the joints where the spine attaches to the pelvis. Doctors have recognized that the condition can cause ulcerations of the skin and mouth.
Reiter's syndrome primarily affects young white men between the ages of 20 and 40, although it can occur in older people or children. African-American men rarely get the disease, and women get it only a fifth as often as men.
These patients are treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Take your medication as directed and take steps to prevent reinfection. Treatment fails more often if you don't take your medication as directed, or from reinfection, rather than being infected by a drug-resistant strain of chlamydia. To make sure that your treatment is effective, take the following four steps:
- Make sure you use up the prescribed medication (if treatment is not given in a single dose)
- Make sure your partner is being treated at the same time
- Do not share your medicine with others
Many experts believe that a rescreening at three months after an infection is a good way to detect additional reinfections, especially because most people do not have symptoms and will not necessarily know if they have been reinfected.
Take precautions against future infection. A bout with chlamydia does not protect you against reinfection with other sexually transmitted bacteria. If you continue to engage in high-risk sexual activity, ask your doctor whether you should get routine screening for the chlamydia bacteria. Currently, vaccines are not available to prevent chlamydial infection. Use condoms every time you have sex, get tested often, limit your number of partners, and do not have sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your judgment becomes clouded when you are intoxicated, and you are less likely to remember or to want to take the necessary precautions.
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