It's Your Health
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Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Canada. When left untreated, it can lead to painful health problems and sterility.
After being in decline for many years, rates of chlamydia infection have risen steadily since 1997. These rising rates are an indication that people are not consistently using safer sex methods.
Chlamydia is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex and can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth. It is known as the 'silent disease', because more than 50 percent of infected males and 70 percent of infected females have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition.
The only reliable way to know if you have chlamydia is to be tested. A urine test is available and there is an effective single-dose antibiotic treatment available to treat the infection.
As noted above, the majority of infected people have no symptoms of chlamydia, and therefore may not know they are infected unless they get tested. Symptoms of infection for women can include:
Symptoms for men can include:
Symptoms of anal infection include rectal pain, bleeding and discharge. Those infected through oral sex generally have few symptoms.
If symptoms do occur, they usually appear two to six weeks after infection, but it can take longer for symptoms to appear. Even without symptoms, however, chlamydia can be transmitted and can lead to serious health problems and sterility, especially in women. Anyone at risk should therefore be tested.
For up to 40 percent of infected women, untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID effects include abdominal pain, fever, internal abcesses and long-lasting pelvic pain; effects also include scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility and increase the chance of potentially life-threatening ectopic or tubal pregnancies.
Men can develop scarring of the urethra, making urination difficult and occasionally causing infertility. Although rare, both sexes are at risk of a type of arthritis known as Reiter's Syndrome - an inflammation and swelling caused by the spread of the infection through the bloodstream into the joints.
If a pregnant woman has chlamydia, her baby may be born prematurely, have eye infections or develop pneumonia.
Following these suggestions may help you to protect yourself from contracting chlamydia:
Health Canada's Sexual Health and Sexually Transmitted Infections Section provides national leadership and coordination through programs that develop and support surveillance and targeted research studies. Working with provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations and health care providers, the Section develops evidence-based national standards and policies, promotes the exchange of information and engages in prevention and promotion activities.
For more information on chlamydia, talk with your doctor or visit your local public health clinic. You can also find helpful information on chlamydia, other STIs, and sexual health at the following websites:
What you need to know about STI:
For tips on safer sex practices go to Health Canada's Condoms, Sexually transmitted infections, Safer Sex and You Web site.
For information on STIs directed at youth go to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada's sexuality and the Teen Web site at Sexuality and U.
For more information on common STIs and tips on prevention go to the
College of Family Physicians of Canada's Web site.
For additional articles on this subject and other issues go to the It's Your Health Web site. You can also call (613) 957-2991.
ę Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,
represented by the Minister of Health, 2004
Original : July 2004