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Why Test For Chlamydia, The Silent STD

Beating Male Depression

Chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD reported in the United States, is known as the “silent” STD. This is because symptoms and signs are usually absent, mild, or not noticeable. It may be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

If infected, the disease targets the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, urethra, anus, throat, and eyelids. The symptoms are not only silent, but vary greatly from person to person, and even more shockingly, from gender to gender.

While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently suggests that both women and men may experience abnormal discharge, pelvic pain, or painful urination as symptoms of a chlamydia infection, recent studies have found that chlamydia infections in men are completely asymptomatic in 50-70% of cases.

If symptoms do present, they may appear in as little as 5 days or as much as 3 weeks. The spectrum for chlamydia is huge and varying, especially in men who rarely show symptoms.

Though there is no blanket “one size fits all” guide to chlamydia and its symptoms, there are a few signs and symptoms to look for specifically in men, such as:

  • Pus and/or watery or milky discharge from the penis
  • Swollen testicles
  • Swelling around the anus
  • Pain during urination

If left untreated, these seemingly mild symptoms can develop into a chronic case of chlamydia which may lead to urethritis (the swelling and inflammation of the urethra) and even more severely, Reiter’s Syndrome. Reiter’s Syndrome is a relatively rare complication which expands from common urethritis, also infecting the eyelids, joints, and skin. It becomes an auto-immune disorder (a disease which forces your own body to turn against you) and currently affects 1-3% of the male population infected with chlamydia. Additionally, it is even more prevalent among white males, compared to other racial groups.

Another extreme health risk associated with chlamydia is the potential for developing epididymitis and proctitis—the swelling of the testicles and anus. Though epididymitis and proctitis only occurs in approximately 2% of genital chlamydia infections, the symptoms are severe. Epididymis causes swelling of the testicles or scrotum, fever, tenderness and redness of the genitals, and the potential to develop a subsequent case of urethritis. Diagnosis is typically non-invasive and involves ultrasounds and palpitation. In extreme cases, exploratory surgery may be necessary to fully identify the problem.

Proctitis as a result of chlamydia affects about 20% of all cases, making it much more prevalent than epididymitis. Men who participate in anal sex with an infected partner are much more likely to contract proctitis. Symptoms may include severe diarrhea; rectal bleeding; inflammation of the anus; cramping and spasms of the bowels; and possible discharge or mucus from the anus. Diagnosis is incredibly invasive. Doctors will perform a colonoscopy, biopsy, and will take a stool sample.

Using condom protection during sex is one of the best ways to avoid STDs while getting tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea is the best way to know that you are free of these diseases. Treatment for chlamydia and its related symptoms range from oral antibiotics to hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics such as Zithromax or doxycycline. After a week or two, symptoms will be cured and the infection cleared up.

While women are more likely to experience long-term effects of chlamydia, treated or untreated, men may also experience long-term infertility problems, but only if chlamydia is left untreated for more than 6 weeks. If you experience any of the above symptoms, please get yourself (and your partner) tested. Online STD testing is affordable and can go a long way towards protecting you and your partner.

Andrew Faix
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