Young Women and Chlamydia
Chlamydia is the most commonly occurring sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, Chlamydia is transmitted through oral, genital or anal sex, affecting both men women. Yet despite its widespread occurrence, Chlamydia has been coined the "silent" disease since the majority of infected individuals are asymptomatic (have no apparent symptoms). For this reason, Chlamydia often remains undetected and can lead to serious complications such as permanent damage to the reproductive organs, Pelvic Inflammtory Disease (PID), ectopic pregnancies, and even infertility.
Young Women and Chlamydia
Sexually active woman under the age of 25 and women in their childbearing years are at particular risk of contracting Chlamydia. Since a young female's cervix is not yet fully developed and thus less resistant to bacteria transmission, young women are more susceptible to STD infections. In fact, teenage girls who have unprotected sex and/or multiple sexual partners are at high risk for Chlamydia, and so are their partners. Thus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all sexually active women be tested annually for Chlamydia and other STDs.
Teenage girls should also encourage their friends to be tested and make sure their partner has been tested and declared free of infection. They should practice safe sex measures such as proper and consistent use of condoms. Contrary to popular belief, routine Pap Smears do not test for Chlamydia and therefore females must specifically ask their doctor to be tested for this STD.
When symptoms do occur, they appear one to three weeks after exposure. Women who are infected may experience a burning sensation while urinating, as well as abnormal vaginal discharge. If the infection spreads from the cervix toward the fallopian tubes, common symptoms include lower abdominal pain, painful urination and intercourse, bleeding between menstrual cycles, and fever and/or nausea. Anal intercourse can lead to Chlamydia infection in the rectum (causing rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding), and oral sex with an infected partner can lead to Chlamydia in the throat.
Advice for Young Women
- Learn about Chlamydia and its consequences and inform your friends
- Get tested annually for STDs
- If at any time a STD is suspected, get tested immediately
- Always use a condom for sexual activities
- Do not have multiple sex partners
- If you have been treated for Chlamydia, make sure your partner is also treated since re-infection can cause severe fertility problems
Chlamydia Testing for Young Women
Testing is either done via a cervical swab or a urine sample that is sent to a lab for analysis, or via blood or tissue samples. If young women cannot or don't want to turn to a doctor, some pharmacies carry home sampling kits wherein a woman collects her own sample and sends it to an accredited lab for testing. Family planning clinics are another resource, and some schools or youth clinics provide Chlamydia testing. Finally, young women can order a Chlamydia test online; however they might be asked to pay a fee.
Chlamydia is simply treated with antibiotics, and in particular with azithromycin and doxycycline. Depending on the individual case, a doctor will either recommend a single dose of azithromycin or daily doses of doxycycline over the course of one week.