Period 3 / Sociology
Today, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) , are among the most common causes of illness in the United States. People in their teens and twenties are most affected by STD?s, with over 6 million new cases each year, and adults between the ages of 13 and 19 are at the most risk for infection. Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States today. It is estimated that more than 4 million new cases occur each year in people of all ages, the majority of which is in young adults. 1 Many STD?s are present in today?s society, and people are having sex with the mentality that it could never happen to them. This is not the case at all. Especially with STD?s like Chlamydia. This particular disease is quickly spreading through the nation due to it?s uncommon occurrence of symptoms. People are spreading it around without even knowing that they have it. Chlamydia is at an even greater risk in the Santa Clara County, where it is the number one STD among sexually active people in our area.2 Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. This bacteria can only live inside of cells, therefore it can only be passed on through the exchange of bodily fluids such as semen, blood, breast milk, and vaginal fluids. It can be transmitted during vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact with an infected partner. Chlamydia can be treated because it is a bacterial infection. If treatment is not prescribed in time, however, the disease most often results in infertility in both men and women.
Chlamydia In Men
This infection occurs primarily in the urethra in men. Men are the primary carriers. The symptoms, if present, include things like painful, burning sensations with urination, frequent urination, and unusual discharge of fluids from the penis. Many times, however, Chlamydia goes unnoticed because of a lack of symptoms. The disease can be tested for with a laboratory sample of the cells within the tissue of the urethra. The thought of this test alone is enough to discourage many a man from going into a clinic and getting checked. This and the female test uses a process called DNA amplification to detect the genes of the organisms in genital secretions. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved this process for detection of Chlamydia in urine. This is a major step in diagnosing Chlamydia because it does not require a tissue sample; it can be used in situations where performing a pelvic exam isn?t possible, like in college health units and at health fairs. Results from the urine test are available within 24 hours, another added motivating factor to get tested in the efforts to curb the rise of this STD. Untreated Chlamydia will cause epidiymitis, an inflammation of a part of the male reproductive system located near the testicles, pain and swelling in the scrotum, scarring and blockage in the urethra and vas defrens, and if left untreated long enough, sterility. It can cause proctitis, or an inflamed rectum, and conjunctivitis, or an inflammation of the lining of the eye, as well.3 The bacteria also have been found in the throat as a result of oral sexual contact with an infected partner.
Chlamydia in Women
Chlamydia in women occurs in the cervix. Women are more likely to not experience any symptoms, therefore the disease often goes untreated. Symptoms that are present may include things like vaginal discharge, pain in the pelvic area, and bleeding between periods. These early symptoms are most often mild, but do progress into severe stages. Chlamydia is tested for in women with something similar to a pap smear, in other words, a sample of the cells lining the cervix is scraped off with a small tool, so it is less intimidating than the male version of the same test. If left untreated the woman may experience an unusual discharge and light bleeding between periods, this bleeding may indicate the spread of infection to the uterus.4 PID, a sign of untreated Chlamydia that occurs in one third of all women infected, can result in scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. Around 100,000 women each year become infertile as a result of PID. In other cases, scarring may interfere with the passage of the fertilized egg down into the uterus. When this happens, the egg may implant in the fallopian tube. This is called ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This is life-threatening for the mother and results in the loss of the fetus.5 A baby who is exposed to Chlamydia in the birth canal during delivery may develop conjunctivitis, which is an eye infection, or pneumonia. Symptoms of conjunctivitis, which include discharge and swollen eyelids, usually develop within the first 10 days of life. Symptoms of pneumonia, including a strong cough and congestion, most often develop within three to six weeks of birth. Both conditions can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics such as a one-day course of azithromycin or a seven-day course of doxycycline to treat Chlamydial infections. Other antibiotics such as erythromycin or ofloxacin also are effective. Pregnant women can be treated with azithromycin or erythromycin. Amoxicillin is also a safe alternative for treating pregnant women. Penicillin, which is often used for treating some other STD’s, is not effective against Chlamydial infections.6 New medications are being developed that should simplify treatment and help control the spread of Chlamydia from mother to baby as well as through sexual intercourse. Because of these risks and risks to the newborn, many doctors recommend routine testing of all pregnant women for a Chlamydial infection.
Because Chlamydia often occurs without symptoms, people who are infected may unknowingly infect their sex partners. Many doctors recommend that all people who have more than one sex partner, especially women under 25, get tested for Chlamydia regularly, even without symptoms. Using condoms or diaphragms during sexual activities also is an effective way of preventing the spread of this STD.7
Thibodeau, Gary A. ?STD?s? The Human Body In Health And Disease
Copyright 1992. Mosby Year-Book Press.
Various Authors. ?Chlamydia? The Columbia Encyclopedia, Third Edition, Copyright 1994 Columbia University Press.
American Social Health Association Research Department
Online Article. 1999.
Encarta Online Encyclopedia. ?Chlamydia? Online Article.
Second Edition. Copyright 1996.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Survey . 1998.