No wonder chlamydia has been nicknamed the silent stalker: After analyzing the latest data, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one in 100 U.S. adults currently have this sexually transmitted disease. That works out to 1.8 million casesÃ¢â‚¬”yet only 1.4 of those have been reported. In other words, 400,000 people may have it and be clueless about the risk it poses to themselves and their partners.
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But it's not necessarily their fault they're in the dark. Most of the time, chlamydia has zero symptoms. "In men and women, it can trigger signs such as abnormal discharge and pain, especially during urination, but the most common symptom is actually none at all," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale University.
For men, it rarely develops into a more severe condition, yet having it means they can spread it to their partners. For women, the consequences are much more serious. If left untreated for months or years, the bacteria will move past primary infection locations such as the urethra, vagina, and cervix and into the uterus and fallopian tubes. There it leads to scar tissue that can quietly harm your fertility, all while you have no idea what's going on, says Minkin. At that point, it can bring on a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which often causes intense pain and cramping. But by the time PID strikes, irreversible damage may have been done. "Chlamydia and PID are huge causes of infertility in women," says Minkin. Untreated chlamydia infection can also make your system more receptive to HIV.
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But here's the good news: A simple test at your gyno's office (either a cervical swab or a urine test) can diagnose chlamydia, and if you have it, a quick course of antibiotics will cure the infection. Ob-gyn guidelines call for all sexually active women under age 25 to be tested yearly, but if you're over 25 and aren't sure (and we mean really sure) of your partner's status, consider getting tested, just to play it safe. Read this for more information on this scary STD.
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