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