The bacterial infection chlamydia is one of the most widespread sexually transmitted diseases in the world and is dangerous because most infected people don’t even know they have it. Symptoms, if they occur, begin one to three weeks after being infected, and if untreated the disease can cause a lifetime of pain and complications. Those who think they may have been exposed to chlamydia should learn about testing procedures as well as the symptoms of this disease.
Symptoms of chlamydia for women include unusual vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, pain during sex, pain during urination, frequent urination, and lower abdominal pain. However, estimates are that up to 75% of women will not develop any symptoms at all, which means women should be tested regularly.
If untreated, women with chlamydia can develop pelvic inflammatory disease and inflammations of the cervix. They are also at an increased risk for ectopic pregnancies, or a pregnancy outside of the uterus.
Again, not all men will develop symptoms—some estimates give it a 50% chance. When symptoms do start appearing, men need to look at getting tested and treated as soon as possible.
Symptoms of chlamydia for men include an unusual discharge from the penis, pain or burning while urinating, and swelling and tenderness in the testicles. If the infection is allowed to continue untreated, it could develop into epididymitis, an infection of the tubes behind the testicles that transport sperm. This causes even more pain and swelling in the testicles and scrotum area, and in some cases leads to infertility.
Women can pass chlamydia on to their babies during childbirth. Symptoms of chlamydia infections in newborns include chlamydial eye infections, or pink eye, possibly leading to blindness. Children with chlamydia also may develop a series of lung infections before being properly diagnosed.
A chlamydial eye infection will cause eyes to become red, bloodshot, swollen, and have a high amount of discharge. Chlamydia infections, also known as chlamydia conjunctivitis, were once the leading cause of blindness, although the wider use of antibiotics is causing a decrease in the number of people who lose their sight.
Of all the testing methods, the least invasive and most popular method involves providing a urine sample. This sample will be screened for chlamydia DNA through nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). For best results, those who are tested this way shouldn’t go to the bathroom for two hours before giving the sample.
Swabs can also be used in NAAT, as well as DNA probe tests and cultures. For men, a swab is taken from the opening of the urethra, while for women it’ taken from the vagina, either by self-swabbing or by medical staff.
For eye infections that are suspected to be chlamydia, the patient’s eye is swabbed or scraped, and the tissue is tested the same way as other samples.
The results of DNA testing should be finished within 24 hours. A new, faster test, called an Amplicor Chlamydia Trachomatis Test, can have results back within four hours. The most traditional test, the culture test, takes three to seven days for tests results to come back.
Here’s what we've been up to recently.