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Sexually transmitted diseases infect millions of people a year. Some of the commonly known sexually transmitted diseases are herpes, syphillis, HIV, AIDS, genital warts, and gonorrhea. Some of these diseases are fatal, others can be cured with antibiotics. All of these are dangerous, but the most common sexually transmitted disease is a disease that isn’t as well known. This disease is called chlamydia. Chlamydia is a disease that is infecting young adults all over the country. This disease is of great concern for individuals in high school and those in college. This disease is the leading cause of sterility. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It primarily infects cells in the tube which carrries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, and also the neck of the uterus. Chlamydia also infects the cells in the rectum and eyes. Chlamydia is the number one sexually transmitted disease in the United States, rates are highest in the West and Midwest. Missouri has a chlamydia rate that is much higher than the national average. Health economists estimate that the chlamydial infections and the other problems they cause cost Americans more than two billion dollars a year. Over four million people become infected with chlamydia each year. New cases of chlamydia are about four times more common than new cases of genital herpes and genital warts combined. Chlamydia is often dubbed the “silent epidemic” because it is so prevalent, but so unheard of. Chlamydia is not as well known as other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea or syphilis. Chlamydia infection is greatest among young adults and teenagers, especially in sexually active women less than twenty years of age. One of the reasons that chlamydia is so prevalent is because over 70% of women who are infected don’t know they are infected because they lack signs or symptoms. About 50% of men lack signs or symptoms. Chlamydia is transmitted in various ways.
Chlamydia is primarily transmitted through sexual intercourse. It is transferred during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual contact with an infected partner. Chlamydia can also be acquired in the pharynx from oral-genital contact. Chlamydia can also be transferred from an infected mother to her child during delivery. The children often have an eye inflammation at birth or, in rarer cases pneumonia. There are several risk factors for chlamydia. Engaging in unsafe sex is a huge risk factor for chlamydia. Having sex with more than one partner also increases the risk of contracting chlamydia. Being in a sexual relationship with someone who has multiple sex partners is also a risk factor in becoming infected with chlamydia.
If symptoms do appear, they usually appear from one week to one month after being infected. There are many symptoms that occur in men. Some include the inflammation of the urethra, a stinging feeling during urination, mild, sticky, milky, mucus like discharge from the penis, and possible itchiness around the opening. Others include pain, or tenderness in the testicles. These symptoms may seem to come and go. Approximately half of men infected with chlamydia will never have these symptoms. Symptoms in women include mild, milky, or mucus-like discharge, painful urination, painful intercourse, bleeding between periods, and abdominal pain. Others include stinging during urination, and pain caused by pelvic inflammation. Symptoms may also appear in the rectum, and can cause discharge and pain as well as diarrhea. Chlamydia can also cause eye infections, like conjunctivitis. Women are less likely to show symptoms with over 70% of infected women showing no symptoms at all. Infants that have been infected from birth show several symptoms. These symptoms include problems breathing, inflammation of the eye, premature birth, and even pneumonia. Chlamydia is easily treated if it is detected soon after it is contracted.
The most common way of testing for chlamydia is for a doctor to collect a cell sample from the infected area, usually the cervix or penis, with a cotton swab. This sample is then sent to a laboratory for evaluation and results. The most reliable ways to find out whether the infection is chlamydial are through laboratory tests. Usually, a doctor or a nurse will send a sample of pus from the vagina or penis to a laboratory that will look for the bacteria. A referrel to a specialist genitourinary clinic may also be made so that additional testing can be done so a firm diagnosis can be made. Chlamydia can also be tested for by taking a urine sample. This way is less invasive, and less painful. The urine test does not require a pelvic exam or swabbing of the penis. Results from the urine test are available within twenty four hours. Chlamydia is often misdiagnosed as gonorrhea because the symptoms of both diseases are so similar. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are often contracted at the same time. All sexually active women who are less than the age of twenty, and those who have inflammation of the cervix should be tested. Women less than age twenty four, who don’t use barrier contraceptives consistently, or have new or more than one sex partner should be tested. Doctors recommend that since you can be infected and have no symptoms, it is important to be tested if you have had more than one sex partner, especially if you are under the age of twenty five. It is possible to give the disease to someone without even knowing that you have it. That is why until a diagnosis is made, and treatment is administered, it is best to avoid any sexual contact. Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics such as erythromycin, or tetracycline tablets. Common side effects of these treatments include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. If chlamydia is left untreated it can cause many long tirm side effects.
The long term side effects of untreated chlamydia vary in men and women. The long term side effects that occur in men include epididymitis, which is an inflammation of the testicles that can cause sterility. Prostatitis is another side effect that is caused by untreated chlamydia. Prostatitis is an infection of the prostate gland. Reiter’s syndrome is an autoimmune, arthritis-like condition that is also caused by untreated chlamydia. Infertility is another side effect that affects both men and women. In women the most severe side effect is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. This is an ascending infection that spreads from the vagina and cervix to the uterus and fallopian tubes. This disease leads to sterility. PID has symptoms including abdominal pain, lower back pain, pain with intercourse, bleeding between periods, and fever. Each year up to one million women in the United States develop PID, and as many as half of those are due to untreated chlamydial infections. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. It is estimated that over one hundred thousand women a year become infertile because of this disease. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Scarring may interfere with the passage of a fertilized egg to the fallopian tube, this causes the egg to attach itself to the fallopian tube. This is an ectopic pregnancy. Women who have chlamydia that is untreated pass it on to their children, and can cause their children to have long term eye damage. Conjunctivitis usually develops within the first ten days of life in a newborn that has a mother with untreated chlamydia. Conjunctivitis is an eye infection that includes discharge and swollen eyelids. Pneumonia is another side effect that the mother passes on to the baby. This often develops within three to six weeks of birth. Due to these risks to the newborn, many doctors recommend that all pregnant women get tested for chlamydial infection. Untreated chlamydia also leads to an infection around the liver called Perihepatitis. Reiter’s syndrome also occurs in women who leave chlamydia untreated. However, when treated in time, chlamydia has no long term side effects.
To prevent contracting chlamydia at all, several things can be done. Abstinence from oral, vaginal, and anal sex is the only way to be completely protected from chlamydia. If engaging in sexual activity, using condoms during vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse is a good way to help prevent contracting chlamydia. Although condoms do not provide perfect protection, they do offer the best protection available. Having a monogamous relationship in which both partners are faithful at all times also helps lower the risk of contracting chlamydia. Limiting the number of sexual partners, and having each partner tested will help prevent contracting chlamydia. Regular check-ups are also recommended for preventing chlamydia. An important part of preventing chlamydia is not becoming sexually intimate when drinking alcohol or doing other drugs.
There is some research going on to find better ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent chlamydial infections. Scientists recently completed sequencing the genome for C. trachomatis. This will give scientists important information as they try to develop a safe and effective vaccine. Developing topical microbicides, preparations that can be inserted into the vagina to prevent infection, that are effective and easy to use, is a major research focus. The only downside to developing a vaccine for chlamydia is that it may increase the number of people practicing unsafe sex. There are many organizations that can be contacted to receive information on chlamydia. The CDC National Prevention Information Network, the CDC National STD hotline, and the American Social Health Association are just a few organizations that offer information on chlamydia. There are also many websites that offer information on chlamydia and many other sexually transmitted diseases. Information is readily available for anyone who is concerned about their health.
Knowing that chlamydia is the number one sexually transmitted disease in the country, especially among high school and college students, it is important to become familiar with the disease. It is more important to find the ways to prevent and protect against the disease. Chlamydia should be a concern for all teens and young adults across the country. This disease should be a concern for every student on campus. Chlamydia is the number one sexually transmitted disease at Towson. This disease is so easily treated by antibiotics, that it is a shame so many people are living with it. Although chlamydia is a disease that often shows no symptoms, it does carry long term consequences. This is the silent epidemic that is raging across America. The only way to stop chlamydia from spreading so rapidly is to become informed about the disease and its consequences. Chlamydia is a concern for everyone who is sexually active.
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