With more than 1.7 million newly reported cases in 2017 alone, chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. This condition is often asymptomatic in the early stages, which is why many cases are undiagnosed until much later. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to a number of health complications, including infections, prostate problems, as well as infertility in women.
Caused by a bacterium of the same name, chlamydia is spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Adults are most at risk, especially if they practice unprotected sex or have intercourse with multiple partners. A history of prior STDs is also a risk factor. Newborns can also acquire chlamydia from their mothers during delivery and experience serious health problems as a result of the infection.
Is Chlamydia Curable?
Thankfully, chlamydia is easily curable as long as you take the medication prescribed by your doctor. As with all other STDs, it is important to start treatment as soon as you contract the bacterium that causes the infection. That way, the medication will have a better chance of working and you’ll manage to avoid complications.
The symptoms of chlamydia usually occur within the first three weeks of contact. These include pain during urination and intercourse, as well as constant abdominal pain. Both men and women may experience genital discharge and burning and swelling in the genital area. In women, a chlamydia infection may also result in painful periods and bleeding between periods.
You should visit your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. However, many people experience no symptoms when they contract chlamydia, so they may not know they have it until it has already advanced. To ensure that the infection is diagnosed on time and reduce the risk of complications, the CDC recommends that sexually active women and men get tested for chlamydia at least once a year.
How Is Chlamydia Treated?
Chlamydia is typically treated with antibiotics.
Your doctor may give you a single 1g dose of azithromycin or prescribe 100mg of doxycycline. If for some reason you can’t take either of these two antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe one of the alternative medications. These include erythromycin, levofloxacin, or ofloxacin.
If you develop a chlamydia infection during pregnancy, the treatment may be different. Some of the standard medications like doxycycline aren’t deemed safe for pregnant women as they can potentially harm the developing child, especially when taken during the second and third trimesters.
Chlamydia infections during pregnancy are usually treated with azithromycin, erythromycin, or the widely used amoxicillin. Although they may cause some side effects like diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and rashes, they occur very rarely. In addition, none of the possible side effects can affect the developing child.
Antibiotics can also be used to treat chlamydia infections in children, as well as HIV-positive patients. Although they can cure the infection, it is important to note that antibiotics cannot cure any related complications that may have occurred before you started your treatment.
How Long Does the Treatment Last?
Treatment for chlamydia typically lasts between one and seven days. This will depend on how well-equipped your immune system is to fight the infection, as well as the medication your doctor prescribes.
Azithromycin is intended for short-term usage, so your treatment will only last for a day. Your doctor will prescribe a single 1g dose of this antibiotic to be taken in a day, usually in two or four tablets. What’s more, the doctor may administer the medication personally to ensure that you don’t exceed the recommended dosage. This also helps avoid any side effects, which is particularly important for pregnant women, children, as well as patients who suffer from other conditions that affect the immune system.
All other antibiotics used to treat chlamydia are used for seven days. Erythromycin is taken orally four times a day, ofloxacin and doxycycline are taken twice a day, while levofloxacin is taken once daily.
To ensure optimal results, you need to take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor for the duration of your prescription. If everything goes according to plan and the symptoms are gone by the end of the treatment, you should go for a follow-up test in about three months to make sure that the infection is no longer in your system. However, if you are still experiencing symptoms after you have taken a full course of antibiotics, you should consult with your doctor about an alternative treatment.
Can Chlamydia Come Back After Treatment?
Like many other bacterial infections, chlamydia can come back even after you have completed your treatment. This most often happens if you fail to take your medication as instructed by your doctor. Also, if you continue practicing unprotected sex and/or your partner has an undiagnosed chlamydia infection, you may get re-exposed to the bacterium and develop another infection. The same can happen if during intercourse you use an object that was contaminated with chlamydia and wasn’t cleaned properly.
According to a 2000 study, genital chlamydia infections recur in almost 30% of cases. The results suggest that people who have a history of STDs are more likely to develop repeated infections.
Doctors previously believed that recurring infections were the result of either an unsuitable treatment or a re-exposure to the bacterium that causes chlamydia. However, the results of a recently published animal study show that there might be another reason. Namely, chlamydia may have evolved so much that it is now able to hide in your gut and reemerge periodically like the herpes simplex virus. To reduce the risk of recurrence, the authors recommend that patients be retested two months after treatment.
The Final Word
Despite how common it is, not only is chlamydia curable but it’s also preventable.
To reduce your risk of infection, you should practice safe sex and use protection even when having oral sex. Avoid having intercourse with multiple partners and sharing objects used during intercourse. If you’re sexually active, make sure to test yourself for chlamydia and other STDs at least once a year. Regular testing will allow you to catch any infection early and start treatment on time.
If you have recently recovered from chlamydia, you should visit your doctor for a follow-up test. Do so about three months after your initial diagnosis. Recurrence rates tend to be high with STDs. Follow-up test will help make sure that your treatment was successful and that the chlamydia-causing bacterium has been eliminated from your system.