More than 60% of women fail to get tested for Chlamydia — CDC
It’s a common sexually transmitted disease, with 1.3 million new cases reported in 2010 alone, and down the road, it can cause complications like chronic pain, infertility and ectopic pregnancies for infected women. Like most STDs, it can even make them more vulnerable to HIV infections, if they are exposed.
If left untreated, chlamydia infections can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease. These can damage the fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissues, causing chronic pain and infertility. An infection can also cause fatal ectopic pregnancies, where the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tubes, causing these to burst.
But if diagnosed early, chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all sexually active women 25 years old and younger to get a routine annual screening for this STD.
Those who test positive and are treated with antibiotics are advised to be get a re-test after three months to make sure the medicine has done its job.
But according to a CDC study, fewer than 38 percent of 16 million American women 15 to 25 years old report that they’ve been tested for chlamydia during the past year. Retesting rates also remain low, implying that reinfections are likely being missed.
Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis Prevention, and his colleagues looked at data from the National Survey of Family Growth, specifically analyzing data on chlamydia testing among teenage girls and young women 15 to 25 years old. The data was largely self-reported.
The CDC researchers found that overall testing rates remain low. That, and the fact that the infection often has no symptoms, leads the health agency to worry that the actual rate of new chlamydia infections may be twice the reported figure. That’s nearly 2.8 million new infections each year, says Dr. Gail Bolan, the CDC’s director of STD Prevention.
“The new data make it clear we are missing far too many opportunities to protect young women,” Dr. Bolan told reporters in a conference call from the National STD Prevention Conference in Minneapolis on March 14.
There’s a bit of good news, though. The CDC analysis shows that rates of testing are highest among women who had multiple sex partners, African-American women, and those who received public insurance or were uninsured. Dr. Fenton said this was encouraging because these are very the groups that have the highest risk for chlamydia.
“It’s critical that health care providers aren’t only aware of the importance of testing sexually active young women every year for chlamydia infections, but also of retesting anyone who is diagnosed,” Dr. Bolan concludes.
Chlamydia, caused by a certain kind of bacteria, can spread from one partner to another during vaginal, anal, or even oral sex. A pregnant woman can pass the infection to her newborn during delivery.
Most people will not show symptoms even when infected. When they do, these can include pain during urination, cloudy urine, or an abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina. But even when they have no symptoms, people who are infected can spread chlamydia. And until they are treated, they remain contagious.
To treat chlamydia, doctors often prescribe amoxicillin, azithromycin (Zithromax), doxycycline (Doryx, Vibramycin, Vibra-Tabs), erythromycin (E-Base, Erythrocin), levofloxacin (Levaquin) and ofloxacin (Floxin). When taken exactly as directed, antibiotic treatment normally cures chlamydia infections.
For people taking these drugs to treat a chlamydia infection, remember, it’s important to take all the medicines as directed; otherwise, the medications may not work. Both — or all — sex partners need treatment to keep from passing the infection back and forth, and beyond.