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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Chlamydia and Teens

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Chlamydia is America's most common sexually transmitted disease, and is most often seen in teens and young adults. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection spread by vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. Most people do not have any symptoms to know they have been infected, so they unknowingly pass it from partner to partner. Chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics, but if not treated, complications for women can include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and scarring in the fallopian tubes that may lead to ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Complications in men are rare, but Chlamydia in males can lead to infertility, as well.

Risk factors for Chlamydia include having sex without using condoms, having a high-risk partner (e.g., who has many partners, a male who has sex with men, injection drug users, and commercial sex workers), having multiple sexual partners, and having started to have sexual intercourse before age 18. Because the rates of infection are so high, it is recommended that all sexually active women under age 26 should be screened regularly for Chlamydia, which means annually, or every time they have a new sexual partner.

Testing for women can be a vaginal swab or urine test, and for males, it is a urethral swab or urine test. Unfortunately, a test cannot tell how long you have had the infection, and the longer you are infected, the greater chance there is of having the more serious complications.

These facts suggest that all young people be encouraged to either not have oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or that they protect themselves by using condoms, and by all means be tested annually if sexually active.

Resources:
We're Talking Teen Health

Photo credit: bribriTO

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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