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Chlamydia

What Is It?
Chlamydia (pronounced: kluh-mid-ee-uh) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Although you may not have heard its name, chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Because many people don't have any symptoms, though, lots of people can have chlamydia and not know it.

The bacteria can move from one person to another through sexual intercourse or oral-genital contact. If a person touches bodily fluids that contain the bacteria and then touches his or her eye, he or she may get a chlamydial eye infection. Chlamydia can also be passed from a mother to her baby while the baby is being delivered. This can cause pneumonia and conjuntivitis, which can become very serious for the baby if it's not treated. You can't catch chlamydia from a towel, doorknob, or toilet seat.

How Does a Girl Know She Has It?
It can be difficult for a girl to know whether she has chlamydia because most girls don't have any symptoms. Chlamydia may cause an unusual vaginal discharge or pain during urination. Some girls with chlamydia also have pain in their lower abdomens, pain during sexual intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. Sometimes a chlamydia infection can cause a mild fever, muscle aches, or headache.

How Does a Guy Know He Has It?
Like a girl, a guy can also have a difficult time telling whether he has chlamydia. Some guys may have a discharge from the tip of the penis (urethra - where urine comes out), or experience itching or burning sensations around the penis. Rarely, the testicles may become swollen. Many times, a guy with chlamydia may have few or no symptoms, so he might not even know he has it.

How Long Until You See the Symptoms?
A person who has contracted chlamydia may see symptoms a week later. In some people, the symptoms take up to 3 weeks to appear, and many people never develop any symptoms.

What Can Happen?
If left untreated in girls, chlamydia can cause an infection of the urethra (where urine comes out) and inflammation (swelling and soreness caused by the infection) of the cervix. It can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility.

If left untreated in guys, chlamydia can cause inflammation of the urethra and epididymis (the structure attached to the testicle that helps transport sperm).

How Is It Treated?
If you think you may have chlamydia or if you have had a partner who may have chlamydia, you need to see your family doctor, adolescent doctor, or gynecologist. Some local health clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, can also test and treat people for chlamydia.

The doctor will do an exam and swab the vagina or penis for secretions, which will then be analyzed. Sometimes doctors can diagnose chlamydia by testing a person's urine. If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics, which should clear up the infection in a week. Anyone with whom you've had sex will also need to be tested for chlamydia because that person may be infected but not have any symptoms. It is very important that a person who has a chlamydia infection abstain from having sex until they and their partner have been treated.

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