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When you think about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you probably think a positive test result is the worst-case scenario. In reality, the worst-case scenario is no test result at all. While testing for STDs can be anxiety-inducing, it’s always better to be informed and get treatment than to let an infection spread.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common and well-known STDs. Due to their similarities, you might wonder: are chlamydia and gonorrhea treated the same? Both of these bacterial STDs require antibiotics to treat the infection, but the treatments have some key differences.
Before you can gain access to treatment, you need to test for STDs. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to stay up-to-date on your sexual health screening with rapid STD tests. This keeps you, your sexual partners, and your community safe.
Understanding Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: More Alike Than Different?
Since both of these diseases are often asymptomatic, especially in men, they can go undetected for a long time. There are long-term health risks if chlamydia or gonorrhea are left untreated. This is why it’s so vital to test regularly. You may not know you have asymptomatic STIs, but a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing can give you clarity into your health.
Both are bacterial infections, though they are caused by different bacteria. Chlamydia trachomatis causes chlamydia, while Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium causes gonorrhea.
When your body contracts chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterium attaches to a host cell as a small form called the elementary body. The bacterium transforms into a more metabolically active form called the reticulate body and replicates. Afterward, the bacteria transition back into elementary bodies, causing the cell to rupture and release the infection to the environment.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae functions similarly. It first adheres to epithelial cells in your throat, anus, or genitals. It then moves toward the epithelial membrane and replicates to form microcolonies. From there, it can work its way into your bloodstream.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat. They are transmittable through skin and bodily fluid contact during sex. They most commonly spread through oral or anal sex. However, you can also transmit them through fingering if you and your partner exchange bodily fluids.
Both infections can also spread through birth. If a pregnant person has gonorrhea or chlamydia, their child could have the infection at birth. While every sexually active person should test regularly, it’s especially vital for pregnant people to routinely test for STDs.
Symptoms and Diagnosis: Decoding the Tell-Tale Signs
While chlamydia and gonorrhea are both often asymptomatic, especially in the early stages, they do present symptoms other times. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both STDs that cause itching. Other symptoms may vary depending on whether you have a vagina or penis, how long you have the infection, and where the infection site is. If you recognize any symptoms, you must test and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Chlamydia
Common chlamydia symptoms include:
- Discharge from the urethra
- Burning or itching sensation while peeing
- Pain, bleeding, and discharge from the anus
- Swelling and soreness of the testicles
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain or bleeding during sex
- Lower abdominal and pelvic pain
Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Common symptoms of gonorrhea include:
- Yellow or green discharge from the infected area
- Burning sensation during urination
- Bleeding during sex and between periods
- Inflamed foreskin
- Sore testicles
- Lower abdominal pain
In some cases, these symptoms will arise within two weeks of infection. In others, the infection will be completely asymptomatic until you begin to experience the long-term effects of an untreated infection.
Pelvic pain, bleeding during sex, and bleeding between periods are more typical for people with vaginas, while people with penises experience burning or itching urethra and sore testicles.
If you receive treatment early on, both of these STIs are curable. However, if these infections go untreated, they can lead to more serious complications.
Complications of Untreated Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
When gonorrhea spreads to the bloodstream, it can develop into disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). This infection leads to arthritis, dermatitis, and tenosynovitis. Without proper treatment, DGI can be life-threatening. Anyone can experience DGI.
Anyone can also experience reactive arthritis. This results from untreated chlamydia. This causes soreness and swelling of joints throughout the body, including feet, ankles, and hips.
Epididymitis and prostatitis are both conditions unique to people with penises that result from untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia. Epididymitis is the inflammation of the tube that holds testicles in place. Prostatitis is a product of increased fluid in semen and can lead to fevers, lower back pain, and painful ejaculation.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a complication unique to people with vaginas that occurs when gonorrhea or chlamydia goes untreated. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, internal abscesses, and damaged fallopian tubes. As a result, women with PID have a higher risk of premature birth, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and infertility.
Diagnostic Testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
Nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT) is the most common diagnostic method for both infections. Doctors may conduct NAAT testing using a urine, cervical, or vaginal swab. They may also test for chlamydia with samples from your anus, eyes, or throat.
If you test positive for either STI, be sure to notify all recent sexual partners as soon as possible.
Treatment Strategies: A Comparative Analysis
Are chlamydia and gonorrhea treated the same? Both bacterial STIs are curable and treated with antibiotics but require different treatment plans.
Chlamydia treatment typically begins with a dose of the oral antibiotic azithromycin, a common antibiotic treatment for STIs. After this, you take a seven-day course of oral antibiotic doxycycline twice a day. Gonorrhea, on the other hand, requires an intramuscular injection of another antibiotic, ceftriaxone, before taking oral azithromycin.
In both cases, the dose of azithromycin is typically 100mg taken once. Depending on your circumstances, your doctor may alter your antibiotic plan.
Both infections take a week to fully clear. Avoid having sex during this time, as you could still risk infecting someone. Chlamydia and gonorrhea do not have vaccines for prevention, so if you do have sex, be sure to use safe sex practices to prevent STIs like:
- Using condoms
- Washing sex toys between uses
- Scheduling routine STI tests
Since re-infection is common in both STDs, it’s essential to finish your full course of treatment and continue routine testing afterward. You can even use a 10-panel STD test to test for multiple common STDs at once. Sexual health screening is vital to prevent STDs from developing into more serious conditions.
Antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea continues to grow in the United States. There are also a few reports of antibiotic resistance in chlamydia, though this is less common. In these instances, your doctor will develop a different treatment plan with slightly different antibiotics to clear you of these infections.
Better Safe Than Sorry: Get Tested Today With Rapid STD Testing
Are chlamydia and gonorrhea treated the same? There are similarities in these STDs' symptoms and treatments, but they are ultimately two different infections, cannot turn into each other, and require different treatment protocols.
However, if you let either STD go untreated, you can face serious complications. It’s always better to be safe and get tested. You can even use same-day testing with Rapid STD Testing to avoid a long wait time. Call 866-872-1888 to order test panels, or visit your local clinic to speak to a medical professional.