Sexually transmitted diseases: Chlamydia

Should we use condoms until my partner is treated for Chlamydia?

Frequently, patients ask if it is ok to still have intercourse with a partner who has not been treated as long as the couple uses condoms.  A visualization technique to consider would be imagining having intercourse with the partner with a condom right after he has rolled his member around in fresh wet mud mixed with animal droppings.  That romantic image should cause at least some hesitation.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD)  that can infect both men and women and can cause permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive organs. It is known as a ‘silent’ infection because most infected people have no symptoms.  It can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics.

Persons with Chlamydia should abstain from having sex for seven days after a single dose antibiotic, or until completion of a seven-day course of antibiotic, to prevent spreading the infection to partners.

Even if you have been treated, you can get infected again if you have sex with an infected person. It is a very common STD, especially among young people.

Some infected women have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. Untreated infections can spread upward to the womb and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry the egg from the ovaries to the womb), causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can be silent, or it can cause symptoms such as abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if PID causes no symptoms initially, it can lead to infertility (not being able to get pregnant) or ectopic pregnancies (pregnancies that settle in the fallopian tubes.)

In pregnant women, untreated Chlamydia has been associated with pre-term delivery, and can spread to the baby, causing eye infections or pneumonia.

There are laboratory tests to diagnose Chlamydia. Specimens for testing are obtained from swabbing the cervix or collecting a urine sample.

Persons with Chlamydia should be retested about three months after treatment of an initial infection, regardless of whether they believe that their partners were successfully treated.

Using latex condoms correctly, and with each episode of sexual intercourse. can reduce the risk of getting or giving Chlamydia. The surest way to avoid Chlamydia is to abstain from vaginal, anal, and oral sex or to be in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.