Straight, No Chaser: The Most Common STD – Chlamydia

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For most people, NGU isn’t a college in South Carolina. In fact, non-gonococcal urethritis isn’t really even that anymore, meaning it doesn’t need to be defined by the fact that it’s not gonorrhea. Chlamydia (the most common cause of NGU) by itself causes an estimated 3 million sexually transmitted infections a year. It is the most likely reason you’re coming into the emergency department when someone’s been behaving badly.
Here’s what I want you to know about Chlamydia:
1. It’s a real good reason to wear condoms. Chlamydia most commonly presents with no symptoms but may present with burning with urination, having to go more often (that’s the urethritis; the urethra is the tube through which urine flows) and a cloudy discharge. Less commonly, it can affect the rectum (proctitis) or a portion of the testicles (epidydimitis).
2. It’s contagious. If you’re sexually active with someone infected, odds are you’ll get it. It can be acquired via oral, vaginal or anal sex, and ejaculation isn’t required for transmission. Even worse, that means you can pass it to your newborn child (to disastrous effects to the baby, as noted in the lead picture of the newborn; Chlamydia has long been a significant cause of blindness worldwide, though thankfully the rate is decreasing).
2. Treatment doesn’t prevent you from reacquiring it. If you don’t change the behavior, you won’t change the future risk.
3. If both partners aren’t treated, then neither is treated. This can just get passed back and forth like a ping-pong ball. If you have several sexual partners, you’ll manage to introduce a lot of drama into a lot of lives. If you are treated, you should not engage in sexual activity until one week after your partner(s) have completed treatment.
4. It causes serious damage to females. PID (pelvic inflammatory disease – a complication of untreated Chlamydia) is a serious enough topic to warrant its own post, but untreated infections lead to infertility, an increased rate of tubal (ectopic) pregnancies and other complications. This needs to be identified and treated.
5. STDs hang out together. Chlamydia that goes untreated increases the chances of acquiring or transmitting HIV/AIDS. An infection with Chlamydia should prompt treatment for other STDs and testing for HIV.
6. It is easily prevented and treated. Wear condoms each time, every time. Get evaluated early with development of signs or symptoms. Discuss the discovery of Chlamydia with all sexual contacts from the last several months. This is an infection you don’t have to catch.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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0 thoughts on “Straight, No Chaser: The Most Common STD – Chlamydia

    1. Hi Elva. First of all, Chlamydia is quite treatable. The key is to identify it. Even if a pregnant mother had Chlamydia, it doesn’t mean the child will contract it. That typically occurs when the baby is passing through the birth canal during delivery. Even then, it can be treated if identified. Just a few decades ago, around the world Chlamydia caused about 15% of blindness, now it’s around 3-4%. This type of damage takes weeks to months to occur. Thanks for your question, and thanks for following Straight, No Chaser.

  1. Dr. Sterling, you said………….an infection with Chlamydia should prompt treatment for other STDs and testing for HIV. Which other diseases should you be treated for? Should you just be treated for these diseases or tested for them then treated if the results are positive?

    1. Hi, Stephanie. In emergency departments, we start with the assumption that if you have any STD you have them all until proven otherwise. Anyone who’s ever been treated for an STD will recall that they received multiple swabs and blood tests as well as several medications. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are generally tested for together, and consideration of testing for Herpes and Syphilis should be made, although those are more guided by clinical findings. Everyone should be tested for HIV after contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Thanks for your question.