Chlamydia is the most prevalent of all STIs. Here's how to protect yourself and your partner

Among sexually transmitted infections (STIs), chlamydia is often overlooked, but this bacterium is the most common STI in Canada.

Men and women in their early 20s are at highest risk for contracting chlamydia, but anyone who has unprotected oral or penetrative sex with a partner who is not completely monogamous is at risk of contracting the infection.

Chlamydia has spread so widely because it is so hard to detect. Initial symptoms are usually mild and may not appear for several weeks. In addition, of those infected, half of men and 70% of women show no symptoms at all and may not even know they are carriers.

Regular screening for chlamydia is vital for sexually active people, because without treatment it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, urethritis or scarring of the fallopian tubes – a condition that can lead to infertility.

Pregnant women with chlamydia can have complications with their pregnancy and can also pass the infection on to their newborns.

If you are sexually active, minimize your risk by following safe-sex practices and maintaining open communication with partners about your STI history and level of monogamy. Visit your doctor regularly for screening – the test for chlamydia involves a simple genital swab or urine sample – and inform partners if you test positive for the infection.

Chlamydia is easily treatable through a course of antibiotics, sometimes available in a single dose. However, having chlamydia once doesn’t mean you can’t get it again. Make sure your partner is tested and treated to prevent reinfection.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Some people with chlamydia experience the following signs, though many experience no symptoms at all. That’s why it’s so important to get tested. Symptoms can include:

  • Genital pain or discharge
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Painful intercourse
  • Light bleeding, for women
  • Testicular soreness, for men

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.