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Women's Health

Could I Have Chlamydia For Years?

02/24/2011

Question:

Recently my boyfriend has had swelling in one of his testicles and after getting it looked at the doctor believed that it may be Epididymitis.

Afterward he phoned me and told me I should get a Chlamydia test done since it is the leading cause of Epididymitis and that I probably gave it to him. This shocked me since he and I have been monogamous for over 8 months and I had received a pap-test in that time (although I`m not sure if they look for Chlamydia or not) as well as urine tests. He said most women don`t show symptoms so I could have had it for years and never knew it. However, my question is about what he said next. I had been sick and taking Penicillin to treat Tonsillitis a few weeks beforehand so he said, "It happens a lot where women take antibiotics that destroy good bacteria and then they get Chlamydia." He also went on to say, "Only women are the carriers of Chlamydia and they pass it on to men when they get it."

So my question is could I have had Chlamydia for years and never passed it on to anyone until I took antibiotics that allowed it to surface? What exactly do pap-tests look for?

I`m curious mainly because his symptoms for Epididymitis didn`t surface until 12 days after the last time we had sex [as in, we had sex once and then didn`t have sex for 12 days; then his symptoms appeared and we still have not had sex] and I would think that Chlamydia would show up on a pap-test if it`s so common; otherwise what exactly are they swabbing me for?

I look forward to receiving some answers as I couldn`t find them anywhere online after looking for hours.

Answer:

I am sorry that you are having this problem with your boyfriend. I will try to answer your questions one at a time and then give you info regarding chlamydia from the CDC. I have not heard anything about getting Chlamydia or having Chlamydia infection show up after taking an antibiotic. Men and women can pass it on to their partners. Pap smear: This checks for cervical cancer. It can detect bacterial vaginosis, yeast, trichomonas. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia is tested separately.

The info below comes from Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet.


How do people get chlamydia?

Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Chlamydia can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth.

Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection. Because the cervix (opening to the uterus) of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured and is probably more susceptible to infection, they are at particularly high risk for infection if sexually active. Since chlamydia can be transmitted by oral or anal sex, men who have sex with men are also at risk for Chlamydia infection.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease because the majority of infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure.

In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix and the urethra (urine canal). Women who have symptoms might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. If the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus) some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. A chlamydia infection of the cervix can spread to the rectum.

Men with signs or symptoms might have a discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. Men might also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis. Pain and swelling in the testicles are uncommon.

Men or women who have receptive anal intercourse may acquire a chlamydia infection in the rectum, which can cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding. Chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected partner.

How is chlamydia diagnosed?

There are laboratory tests to diagnose chlamydia. Some can be performed on urine, other tests require that a specimen be collected from a site such as the penis or cervix.

 

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Response by:

Riza T Conroy, MD Riza T Conroy, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University