Chlamydia

| General information | Infection and symptoms | Testing for chlamydia | How to get tested | How is chlamydia treated? | How can I protect myself against chlamydia? |

General information

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in Finland. According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare, 13,663 persons were diagnosed with chlamydia in 2012. Student screening studies have shown that a few per cent of symptom-free young adults have chlamydia.

Infection and symptoms

Chlamydia is transmitted during unprotected sex (vaginal or anal intercourse and oral sex). The majority of infections are transmitted in Finland and by a Finnish partner. Chlamydia has an incubation period of about 10 to 14 days. The majority of infected women, and a large proportion of infected men, have no symptoms at all! Nevertheless, they can still develop a chronic chlamydia infection. If left untreated, this can cause problems such as female infertility because of scarring in the Fallopian tubes. Men with symptomatic chlamydia experience pain, burning sensation when urinating or some watery or slimy discharge from the urethra. In women, chlamydia can cause pain when urinating, an increasing urination frequency and increased vaginal discharge. Chlamydia can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease, with symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, menstrual disorders and mild fever. Chlamydia in the rectum or throat usually causes no symptoms.

Testing for chlamydia

Chlamydia can be diagnosed very reliably from a urine sample about a week after the infection. You should not urinate during the 2 hours before you produce the urine sample. In women, chlamydia testing can also be performed on a sample taken with a cotton swab from the urethral opening or from the uterine cervix. Chlamydia in the rectum or throat cannot be diagnosed from a urine sample. If these are suspected, samples should also be taken from the rectum or the throat. A healthcare professional may therefore ask about your sexual behaviour before samples are taken for STD testing. The chlamydia method test used today involves detecting and copying parts of the chlamydia bacterium and can therefore detect even a very small amount of bacterial components in a sample.

How to get tested

At the FSHS, you need a referral from a public health nurse or a doctor to get tested. If you suspect you may have chlamydia (symptoms, your sexual partner has been diagnosed with the infection, unprotected sex with a casual partner), contact the public health nurse at your local FSHS unit, or order a remote testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea infection free of charge.

How is chlamydia treated?

Effective antibiotics are available to treat chlamydia. In Finland, the examinations and treatment for chlamydia are free of charge in the public health care system and at outpatient clinics under the Communicable Diseases Act. Students therefore receive medication free of charge if they are diagnosed with chlamydia at a FSHS laboratory. The most common type of treatment involves a single dose of azithromycin. In addition to antibiotics, it is important not to have sex during the first week of treatment and to always use a condom during intercourse until a post-treatment check-up shows the disease has been eliminated. In the post-treatment check-up, the same laboratory test originally used to diagnose chlamydia will be repeated. If you are diagnosed with an infection, it is important that your sex partners are also tested and treated. It is important to try and break the chain of infection and thus reduce chlamydia rates.

How can I protect myself against chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease. You can protect yourself against infection by always using a condom in every vaginal or anal intercourse unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure your partner DOES NOT have chlamydia. Condoms can also be used during oral sex to protect against chlamydia. When a woman is receiving oral sex, a split condom or an oral sex barrier (a dam) can be used for protection.

Sources:
The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Current Care guideline for sexually transmitted diseases [Sukupuolitaudit; guideline in Finnish]
National Institute for Health and Welfare - National Infectious Diseases Register (NIDR)
Paavonen, Malm, Zilliacus, Trontti et al.: Klamydian esiintyvyys Ylioppilaiden terveydenhoitosäätiön asiakkailla. [Prevalence of chlamydia among Finnish Student Health Service clients.] Finnish Medical Journal 3/2005

This article was written by
Johanna Castrén
This article was reviewed on 26 Nov. 2012 by SI


Key words: Sex, Sexually transmitted diseases, Chlamydia