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Women's Health

Are there other ways to get chlamydia?

04/10/2006

Question:

I recently found out that I have NGU (NonGonococcal Urethritis), and my partner said that the nurse who tested him said that I will have Chalymdia. I was tested on Dec 14, 2005 and all my test came back negative. I`ve had one other partner since then, and I only slept with him one time and that was January 16, 2006. I know it only takes one time to catch an STD, but my recent partner just found out April 6, 2006 that he had NGU, so my question is how long does it take for a person to give another person chlamydia? I would think if I`ve been infected for 3 months my partner would have gotten it before April 6. My other question is this can you get chlamydia other than from having sex, because I was told from more than one medical professional that there are other factors that can cause chlamydia. Is that true?

Answer:

Chlamydia trachomatis infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. One large study found that 4% of women aged 18-26 are infected with Chlamydia, and other studies have found up to 9% prevalence in the female population. Unfortunately, most chlamydia infections are asymptomatic. Up to 70-80% of women don't know they have chlamydia, and almost 50% of men also don't know they carry the infection. Thus, it transmits to other sex partners with relatively high frequency.

Women who have symptoms from chlamydia may experience cervical infection, urethral infection and pelvic inflammatory disease; these are characterized by burning with urination, thick vaginal discharge and possible fevers. In women, chlamydia infections, especially when untreated, can lead to infertility and other long-term complications.  Men who have symptoms usually experience burning with urination and penile discharge. Chlamydia infection in men typically does not lead to long-term consequences.

Risk factors for acquiring chlamydia include young age (it is most common in young adults and adolescents), multiple sexual partners, inconsistent use of condoms, and a history of previous sexually transmitted disease. All women under the age of 25 who are sexually active should be screened for chlamydia infection every 6 months to one year. It is important that you discuss this with your doctor.

As mentioned above, most men and women don't know they have chlamydia infections until they are tested for it, and it may never cause any symptoms. For this reason, all sexual partners should be treated presumptively for chlamydia if one partner has been diagnosed.

Chlamydia can cause other types of infection as well, including eye infections, pneumonia, and genital ulcers. However, NGU (non-gonococcal urethritis) / sexually transmitted genital infection is the most common infection caused by chlamydia, and the most common STD overall. When you acquire a new sexual partner, it is important to use a condom during intercourse to prevent acquiring Chlamydia, and to prevent spreading it to others.

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Response by:

Shazia Ahmed Khan, MD Shazia Ahmed Khan, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University