What Are Sexually Transmitted Infections Or Diseases
Sexually transmitted infections are also commonly called sexually transmitted diseases . They are the infections you get from another person through sexual contact. According to the CDC, there are more than 20 known types of STDs/STIs. In addition, over 20 million people in the United States are infected each year. About half of these people are age 15-24. Luckily, most STDs can be treated and cured.
How do you know if you have one? What is the best treatment? The information here should help answer these questions.
How do the male reproductive organs work?
The male reproductive system is specialized for the following functions:
- To produce, maintain and transport sperm and protective fluid
- To discharge sperm within the female reproductive tract
- To produce and secrete male sex hormones
The male reproductive anatomy includes external structures which include the:
The male reproductive anatomy includes internal structures which include the:
How do the female reproductive organs work?
During menopause the female reproductive system gradually stops making the female hormones necessary for the reproductive cycle to work. At this point, menstrual cycles can become irregular and eventually stop. One year after menstrual cycles stop, the woman is considered to be menopausal.
The female reproductive anatomy includes both external and internal structures.
The female reproductive anatomy includes internal structures which include the:
Often, there are no symptoms at all.
Chlamydia Can Be Prevented
The most effective way to avoid getting a sexually transmitted infection is to not have sex. However, if you wish to have sexual contact, you can reduce your risk of infection with these actions:
- Minimizing the number of partners with whom you have intimate contact
- Asking your partners to get screened for STDs before engaging in sexual activity
- Always using latex condoms when having intercourse of any kind
Additional reporting by Ingrid Strauch.
What To Think About
Some people who have chlamydia may also have gonorrhea. In that case, treatment includes antibiotics that kill both chlamydia and gonorrhea. For more information, see the topic Gonorrhea.
Reinfection can occur. Symptoms that continue after treatment are probably caused by another chlamydia infection rather than treatment failure. To prevent reinfection, sex partners need to be evaluated and treated.
Repeated chlamydia infections increase the risk for pelvic inflammatory disease . Even one infection can lead to PID without proper treatment. Make sure to take your antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Take the full course of medicine, even if you feel better in a couple of days.
Some doctors recommend retesting 6 months after treatment to reduce the risk of complications from reinfection.footnote 3
If you have chlamydia, your doctor will send a report to the provincial or territorial health unit. Your personal information is kept confidential. The health unit may contact you about telling your sex partner or partners that they may need treatment.
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Chlamydia Treatment For Men
Chlamydia is a curable sexually transmitted infection . Treatment involves a short course of antibiotics.
Chlamydia treatment for men and women are the same. There are two types of chlamydia tablets – doxycycline, and azithromycin.
Doxycycline is the first line treatment, as it is a more effective treatment for chlamydia. You take doxycycline twice a day for seven days. A test of cure is not usually required, due to the effectiveness of this antibiotic. It generally has positive reviews.
If you canât take doxycycline, youâll usually be prescribed azithromycin for 3 days. On day 1 you take two 500mg tablets and on day 2 and 3 you take one 500mg tablet. Although the course is shorter, azithromycin is not as effective as doxycycline, and is usually reserved for those that cannot take doxycycline.
Both are available in tablet or pill form and can be swallowed whole with water.
You should refrain from sexual activity during treatment, and for 7 days after having completed treatment. This is because there may be remnants of the infection that are still present after the treatment course has been complete. The antibiotics will still be working to get rid of the infection during these 7 days after treatment.
Female Complications Of Untreated Chlamydia
Infertility is also possible if chlamydia is left untreated because the fallopian tubes may become scarred.
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Letting Partners Know You Have Chlamydia
Sexual partners may be infected too. If you have chlamydia, anyone you have had sex with from the last 6 months needs to be informed, tested and treated.
If they dont know, they could reinfect you or infect someone else if they are not treated. dont receive treatment.
Most people will appreciate being told they may have an infection and it is an important step in preventing further infection in the community.
Your local GP and sexual health centre can help you inform your partners and let them know that they need a test. This process is called partner notification. It can be done anonymously, and your confidentiality is always respected.
You can also anonymously notify your sexual partners of the need to get tested and treated for chlamydia via the Let Them Know website if you feel unable to speak to them personally.
There are also nurses who can help you anonymously notify your partners. They can be contacted on .
How Can I Prevent Chlamydia
If you think you are infected, avoid sexual contact and see a doctor. If you test positive, your partner should also get treatment. Get retested after three months, even if both you and your partner appear infection free.
Most doctors recommend that all people who have more than one sexual partner, especially women, be tested for chlamydia regularly even in the absence of symptoms. It is also recommended that all sexually active women under age 25 be tested yearly as well.
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Home Remedies For Chlamydia Symptoms
You may still experience painful or uncomfortable symptoms while youre taking chlamydia antibiotics.
Here are some home remedies for reducing your pain and other symptoms while youre waiting for the antibiotics to work:
- pain medications, such as ibuprofen to reduce pain
- cold pack to help limit swelling and inflammation
- goldenseal to reduce inflammation and potentially make symptoms less severe
- echinacea to bolster your immune system against the infection and reduce your symptoms
- turmeric containing an ingredient called curcumin to reduce inflammation and make symptoms less severe
No studies support the effectiveness of these supplements specifically for chlamydia, so take them with caution.
And theres no substitute for antibiotics when treating chlamydia. Only try these remedies if youre already taking antibiotics or if you plan to go to the doctor.
How Long Can You Have Chlamydia Without Knowing
Chlamydia is sometimes called a silent infection because the majority of people who have chlamydia regardless of gender never notice symptoms. People who do notice symptoms often dont recognize the signs that they have chlamydia until a few weeks after theyve been infected. Because chlamydia cases are often asymptomatic, its easy to spread chlamydia to someone else without realizing it. And its easy to miss out on receiving the treatment needed to prevent the serious complications that can result from chlamydia.
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Can Women Who Have Sex With Women Get Chlamydia
Yes. It is possible to get chlamydia, or any other STI, if you are a woman who has sex only with women. Chlamydia lives in the reproductive tract of an infected woman and can pass to a sex partner, whether male or female.
Talk to your partner about her sexual history before having sex, and ask your doctor or nurse for an STI test if you are at risk.6
How Do I Know If I Have Chlamydia
Chlamydia often has no symptoms, but it can cause serious health problems, even without symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may not appear until several weeks after having sex with a partner who has chlamydia.
Even when chlamydia has no symptoms, it can damage a womans reproductive system. Women with symptoms may notice
- An abnormal vaginal discharge and
- A burning sensation when peeing.
Symptoms in men can include
- A burning sensation when peeing and
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles .
See a healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms. You should also see a provider if your partner has an STD or symptoms of one. Symptoms can include
- An unusual sore
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How Chlamydia Is Diagnosed
There are a number of different, reliable tests for chlamydia. In addition to tests that a healthcare provider would use in a medical office or clinic, there are now some good test kits you can use at home. The tests rely on several different methods.
Some older tests involve obtaining some of the chlamydia bacteria and growing them in a culture. Today, healthcare providers prefer newer DNA tests, often called NAATs .
Some tests that work for both men and women use a urine sample. Others use secretions from the genitals or other infected areas of the body, such as the rectum. While the CDC recommends testing of genital secretions, screening a urine sample is less invasive and more practical for many primary-care physician offices.
Women under age 25 ought to be tested every year for chlamydia whether or not they have any symptoms. In women, tests often involve the insertion of a cotton swab into the to obtain secretions.
Vaginal swab is the preferred method, says Dombrowski. You dont have to have a whole pelvic exam.
If you are pregnant, you should be screened for chlamydia during your first prenatal visit. If you are pregnant and younger than 25, or if you are pregnant and have a new sex partner or multiple partners, you should also be screened again in your third trimester. Its important to catch and treat chlamydia in a pregnant woman to prevent transmission to the baby. In newborns, the illness can cause serious harm or death.
Symptoms Can Differ For Men And Women
By and large, most cases of chlamydia are asymptomatic they are picked up by screening, which is why it’s so important to have good screening programs in place, notes Dr. Stoner. Men or women who have chlamydia symptoms may experience painful urination.
Women may also have these symptoms:
- Smelly discharge from the cervix
- Pain during sex
And men may have these symptoms:
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How Long Can Chlamydia Stay In Your System
Chlamydia typically goes away within 1 to 2 weeks. You should avoid sex during this time to prevent transmitting the disease. Your doctor may prescribe a one-dose medication or a medication youll take daily for about a week. If they prescribe a one-dose pill, you should wait 7 days before having sex again.
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How To Avoid Catching Chlamydia
Anyone who has unprotected sex is at risk of contracting chlamydia. As many people with chlamydia donât notice symptoms, you may not always know if a current or potential sexual partner is carrying the infection. It is therefore recommended to practice safe sex using barrier contraceptive methods, and test regularly. If you have a new sexual partner or do not use barrier contraception, such as a condom, when having sex, you are at a higher risk of catching chlamydia.
To try to avoid catching chlamydia you should:
- use a dam to cover the female genitals during oral sex or when female genitals rub together
- not share sex toys. If you do share sex toys, wash them after each use or cover them with a new condom each time they are used.
Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.
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How Is It Contracted
Chlamydia is transmitted primarily through sexual activity. The following are the most common ways:
- unprotected intercourse with an infected partner
- sharing sex toys
- from mother to the newborn during vaginal childbirth through the infected birth channel
- infection can be transferred on fingers from the genitals to other parts of the body
Chlamydia is not contracted through simple kissing, handshaking, any casual contacts, sharing baths, towels and cups as well as from toilet seats.
Chlamydia trachomatis, an obligate intracellular human pathogen, is one of four bacterial species in the genus Chlamydia. 3D illustration
How Common Is Chlamydia
CDC estimates that there were four million chlamydial infections in 2018.3 Chlamydia is also the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States.4 It is difficult to account for many cases of chlamydia. Most people with the infection have no symptoms and do not seek testing. Chlamydia is most common among young people. Two-thirds of new chlamydial infections occur among youth aged 15-24 years.3 Estimates show that 1 in 20 sexually active young women aged 14-24 years has chlamydia.5
Disparities persist among racial and ethnic minority groups. In 2020, chlamydia rates for African Americans/Blacks were six times that of Whites.4 Chlamydia is also common among MSM. Among MSM screened for rectal chlamydial infection, positivity ranges from 3.0% to 10.5%.6,7 Among MSM screened for pharyngeal chlamydial infection, positivity has ranges from 0.5% to 2.3%.7.8
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Long Term Effects Of Chlamydia In Men And Women
Long term effects of chlamydia in men and women is due to poorly or untreated chlamydia infection.
It is recommended that both males and females, especially pregnant women, get tested for chlamydia. If you are below 25 years, the World Health Organisation and Center For Disease Control recommends chlamydia testing at least once a year.
Worldwide, chlamydia infection affects about 2.7 percent of men and more than 4 percent of women.
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What Should I Do If Symptoms Of Chlamydia Appear
If you experience symptoms of Chlamydia after sexual activity, you should see your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic as soon as you can to get tested. For guys who have sex guys, you should get tested for HIV and STIs once every three months.
Not sure where to get tested? There are sexual health clinics across Sydney and regional NSW that all offer confidential STI testing and treatment. HIV and STI tests at clinics across the state are free, though if you get tested with a general practitioner this may vary depending on your access to Medicare, and whether or not your doctor offers a bulk billing service. You can find your closest sexual health testing site using our where to get tested tool.
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Antibiotics Are A Highly Effective Cure For Chlamydia Infection
Antibiotics prescribed for chlamydia include:
A single oral dose of Zithromax is the most common treatment. Other drugs may be given in varying doses for a period of up to a week. Most cases of chlamydia clear up within a week after you start on antibiotics.
If you think you have been exposed to chlamydia, Stoner says, see your healthcare provider to receive antibiotic medication to prevent the onset of infection.
The partners of individuals diagnosed with chlamydia will need treatment, too, and in some states they can get it without a doctor visit through a practice called expedited partner therapy, in which the first person treated delivers the treatment to their partner or partners.
Reducing The Risk Of Chlamydia Infection
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which is spread in genital fluids . Its important to bear this in mind, and to remember that chlamydia can be transmitted via various forms of sexual activity.
As a man you can be vulnerable to chlamydia if you are engaging in the following sexual acts:
- Non-penetrative sexual contact
- Sharing sex toys
To stay protected, talk to your sexual partner about their STI status if you arent certain that they are free from infection refrain from sex or use condoms or dental dams until either of you are tested.
Sex toys should not be shared – they should be washed in between use and protected with a condom if possible.
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What Can Happen If Chlamydia Isnt Treated
Untreated chlamydia can put your health at risk. Make an appointment with your provider immediately if you notice any symptoms of chlamydia, and get regular STI screenings to avoid complications later.
Complications of chlamydia for people with vaginas
Untreated chlamydia can cause:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease . PID is a serious condition that requires hospitalization. It can occur when an untreated STI, like chlamydia, damages your reproductive organs. PID can lead to infertility and chronic pelvic pain. It can also cause an ectopic pregnancy, which is life-threatening for the fetus and potentially deadly for the mother or gestational parent, too.
- Pregnancy complications. An untreated infection can lead to pre-term delivery. Also, if youre pregnant and have chlamydia, you can pass the infection on to your newborn. Babies born with chlamydia may have pneumonia or conjunctivitis that could lead to blindness if not treated.
Complications of chlamydia for people with penises
Untreated chlamydia can cause:
- Epididymitis. Infection can spread to the testicles and the tube that carries sperm to your testicles , causing symptoms like pain, swelling and tenderness in your testicles.
- Reduced fertility. Chlamydia can harm your sperm, negatively impacting your ability to conceive.
Complications of chlamydia that can affect all genders
Untreated chlamydia can: