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Chlamydia Still #1 Sex Disease

Love Bug With a Bite

Chlamydia: A Bug With a Bite

Chlamydia is a type of bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, and eye. It's sexually transmitted by either vaginal or anal intercourse. Condoms offer partial protection -- they are much, much better than nothing, and they do stop HIV -- but they don't always stop the chlamydia bug.

 

Unlike most other bacteria, chlamydia can't reproduce itself unless it gets inside human cells. The cells it likes the best are the type that line the urinary and genital tracts of both men and women. These cells, known as columnar epithelial cells, are supposed to keep germs out while allowing fluids to pass through. They are especially plentiful in the lining of the urethra and at the entrance to the cervix. It's here that the bug loves to bite.

 

Women may not notice the early symptoms of infection, but within five to 10 days of infection they may have bleeding between menstrual periods, painful urination or intercourse, vaginal bleeding after intercourse, low-grade fever, frequent urge to urinate, an inflamed cervix, abnormal vaginal discharge, and even a yellowish discharge from the cervix that may smell bad.

 

The bottom line? If you're a sexually active man, pay attention to your body. Get tested if you have any symptoms. If you're a sexually active woman 25 or younger, get tested every time you see the doctor.

Rumor Patrol

Natural history studies in the 1970s suggested that many cases of chlamydia go away by themselves. More recent research suggests that this is very unlikely.

 

"There are studies that show some spontaneous resolution, but do you really want to take that chance?" Workowski asks. "Maybe a couple of percent of people have spontaneous resolutions. We have much more sensitive tests now. The inability [of researchers in the 1970s] to detect chlamydia may have been a problem with the testing they had then."

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