Dealing with Chlamydia, Can I Keep from Being Re-Infected?

Chlamydia is a bacteria-caused, sexually transmitted disease that is passed on through unprotected sex and can affect both women and men. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 1,5 million people are infected by chlamydia in the USA, making it the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease among young individuals between 15-24 years of age. In fact, it is estimated that 5% of sexually active young women have chlamydia. Note, however, that most people that have it are asymptomatic, so they do not test for it. Hence, the cases of chlamydia far exceed the nearly 3 million reported worldwide.

Signs & Symptoms of Chlamydia

The most typical symptoms of chlamydia in women include:

  • Pain/sense of burning during urination.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina or bottom.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Bleeding between periods and/or after sex.
  • Fever or nausea (if the infection spreads).

Men, on the other hand, with chlamydia may exhibit the following:

  • Pain/burning sensation when peeing.
  • Unusual discharge, pain, and/or bleeding from the rectum (the bottom).
  • Swelling and pain in the testicles (either one or both of them).
  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Itching or burning around the opening of the penis.

Nevertheless, as already mentioned, chlamydia can also cause no symptoms (aka “the silent infection”), which is why you may not even realise you have it. That does not mean that you can’t pass it on to others through unprotected sex, though. As for the symptoms, they may appear several weeks after you had sex with an infected individual.

Most Common Misconceptions About Chlamydia

Australian government Better Health Channel platform busts some myths related to chlamydia. Here is what they mention:

  • You can NOT catch the disease by any other means (i.e., from a toilet seat) other than having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner.
  • The ONLY method of contraception to protect you against the disease effectively is the female and male condom.
  • You CAN get chlamydia from oral and anal sex.
  • Chlamydia infections CANNOT go away without antibiotic treatment.
  • Untreated chlamydia CAN cause female and male infertility.
  • Chlamydia IS easy to treat.
  • You CAN get chlamydia again, even if you have been treated for it in the past by having unprotected sex with an infected person.

Also, know that you CAN get chlamydia from sharing sex toys if they are not properly washed after use or those not covered with a new condom every time you use them. Finally, there is no need to have ejaculation, orgasm, or penetration to get chlamydia – all it takes is the partners’ genitals to come into contact.

Common complications

According to the NHS, untreated chlamydia in men can cause inflammation of the testicles and epididymitis and reactive arthritis. In women, it can lead toPelvic Inflammatory Disease that increases the risk of female infertility and ectopic pregnancy (in women) and pregnancy complications (i.e., pass on chlamydia to the baby during birth or give birth to a premature or low-weight baby).

STI Prevention

The World Health Organization estimates that around one million people get a Sexually Transmitted Infection(STI) every day, with chlamydia being one of the top five STIs being acquired. To help prevent catching an STI, they suggest using a condom during intercourse. Other effective approaches include behavioural and counselling interventions to raise public awareness, such as educational programs aiming teenagers and other key populations (i.e., sex workers), the promotion of condoms, and counselling toward both reducing the risk of getting an STI and identifying the associated symptoms.

Mayo Clinic also recommends to:

  • Remain in a long-term monogamous relationship with a healthy partner.
  • Get vaccinated before sexual activity. This applies to the prevention of hepatitis A and B, and HPV (human papillomavirus).
  • Usea dental dam during oral sex.
  • Refrain from having sex with a new partner until you (and your partner) are tested for STIs.
  • Consider PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis). This involves the use of a doctor-prescribed drug combination that reduces the risk of HIV infection in high-risk individuals.

Where to Seek Help

If you think you have an STI, chlamydia included, do visit your physician, the local genitourinary medicine clinic, a sexual health clinic, or a community contraceptive service to get tested. The drill is simple and usually involves a urine or swab test that is done within seconds.
Depending on which country you live in, there are several programs you could consider. For example, those living in the UK can get tested by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme if they are under 25 years of age. You may also get a chlamydia testing kit for free and do it at home, provided that you meet certain conditions. US citizens can address the CDC Division of STD Prevention or the American Sexual Health Association for information related to chlamydia. In any case, your doctor is the most qualified one to determine what treatment is best for you. You may, for instance, need to take one dose of prescribed antibiotics or a 7-day treatment.