Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in North America. Communicable illnesses are a part of life. We can get sick from sharing food, from sharing space and sometimes from having sex. Infections aren’t ideal, but heaping extra stigma on STIs just because they result from sex, seems irrational, mean and all kinds of negative.
One in four of us will contract a sexually transmitted infection in our lifetime. For many of us that infection will be chlamydia. So kick back and relax, while I hit you with a few chlamydia facts! *
What is it?
Chlamydia is a bacterial STI, caused by microscopic shit-disturbers known as Chlamydia tracomatis. Chlamydia infects the cervix in females or the urethra in males. Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to further complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, epididymitis and in some cases infertility.
How is it transmitted?
Chlamydia can be transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be passed from an infected parent to a baby during a vaginal delivery. Using safer sex barriers like condoms and dental dams can help reduce spread of Chlamydia.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of chlamydia are burning or pain during urination, abdominal pain, pain during during intercourse, fever and cloudy white discharge. (Pro-tip: The discharge is different from the normal ejaculate/discharge that comes out of our fun bits.)
Now here’s the important thing about chlamydia and symptoms. Chlamydia is super-weasely. Most people with the infection won’t present any symptoms at all – especially when the infection is in the cervix. Fortunately, medical-types can screen for the infection with either a swab or urine test. If you’re sexual active, you can arrange for testing through your regular health professional or pay a visit to a sexual health centre. In Ottawa, you can also download your own requisition form and take it directly to a testing lab.
How is it treated?
Chlamydia can be cured with course of oral antibiotics. Most health care professionals will tell you that it’s very important to complete the entire course of medication. They often direct patients to lay off the sexin’ until a week or so after they’ve finished their antibiotics, just to be on the safe side.
What else should I know?
Performing oral sex on an infected partner can sometimes lead to a chlamydia infection in the throat. Also touching an infected area and then touching the eyes can cause a nasty eye infection, which left untreated may lead to blindness.
Chlamydia testing is not part of a routine pap smear.
If you test positive for chlamydia it is highly recommended that your sexual partners be tested as well. Sometimes public health practitioners will ask for partners’ contact information so they can give them the heads up that they should come in for testing.
There are other strains of Chlamydia, some which affect humans and some that can be found in other animals, such as koalas. (Shout out to Younes for that fascinating fact!)
* FYI, I’m not a doctor or any kind of medical authority. I strongly suggest you based any health-related decision on the advice of a trained professional.