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What Is Involved in a Chlamydia Screening?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2018
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Chlamydia screening can refer to the protocols established by various government agencies or other organizations determining who benefits from testing for this sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sometimes this term is defined as any examination patients might undergo to see if they have this bacterial infection. Frequently, the general public uses both meanings interchangeably, but the first definition is more common in health care settings.

For health professionals, understanding the population at risk for chlamydia and following the established guidelines can help to reduce the prevalence of the disease. Organizations in the US, like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), make recommendations, which doctors may view as part of best practices. Ignoring protocols might result in an increase in the incidence of the STD. Making sure the populations most at risk receive chlamydia screening is thus important.

Regional or countrywide differences, based on things like disease prevalence or available funding, cause variation in chlamydia screening recommendations. In the US, the CDC advises yearly testing for sexually active women who are under 24. Females who are older than 24 should also undergo yearly chlamydia screening if they are thought to carry increased risk. The presence of chlamydia is higher in certain populations, including Latinas or African Americans, and women who have multiple sexual partners, possess a history of STDs, or have shown poor adherence to safer sex practices. Women with a new sexual partner represent another population that may need to be screened.

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The CDC also advises chlamydia screening for all pregnant women under 24, as well as those above 24 if there is increased risk. A few other guidelines apply. Pregnant women ought to have screening in the first trimester, but it could be repeated in the third trimester, if increased risk still exists. Additionally, if chlamydia is found and treated in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, retesting in the third trimester is advised.

Presently, men in the US aren't provided with regular chlamydia screening guidelines. Doctors should certainly perform a test if a man is suspected of having the condition. For men with a history of multiple sex partners, STDs or insufficient compliance with safer sex guidelines, screening also makes sense. Even though the tests for chlamydia in men are not invasive or dangerous, the CDC feels they pose no benefit for the majority of males. This opinion has occasionally been challenged, since men do contract and spread the disease.

When the term "chlamydia screening" is used to refer to an actual test, it could refer to multiple types of tests. Some are simple analyses of urine, which is the most common way to diagnose the STD in men. Women sometimes have urine tests for chlamydia, too.

The alternative is to use a cotton swab to collect a few skin cells from the vagina, anus, tip of the penis, or throat. This procedure is usually not painful. A collected sample may then be evaluated to see if the bacterium is present. Alternately, the skin cells might be cultured for about a week and tested for bacterial growth.

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