Teenagers are getting chlamydia in high numbers

Diagnosis is key to preventing damage to reproductive system

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) among young women ages 15 to 19. Nationally in 2016, 18,285 teen girls were diagnosed. In Kentucky, the number of cases rose 30 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even more alarming, pediatric/adolescent gynecologists in Louisville and Southern Indiana report seeing girls infected with chlamydia and gonorrhea. Both can cause serious damage to a girl’s reproductive system.

“We have many girls who test positive without any symptoms,” said Meredith Loveless, M.D., Norton Children’s Gynecology. “It is estimated that at least 40 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse, putting them at risk.

“The younger a girl becomes sexually active, the greater her risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.”

Chlamydia symptoms can mirror other issues

Boys can get chlamydia as well. This can cause a challenge for doctors, who may treat someone, but that person’s partner does not get treatment.

“It’s very important that girls and boys have an open conversation with their partner, otherwise they’re going to continue getting re-infected,” Dr. Loveless said. “Not having sex is the best prevention, but if they are sexually active, using a latex condom for any form of sexual activity can significantly reduce the risk.”

So many times patients do not even know they’re infected, since symptoms may mirror other issues or have no symptoms at all.

Well-girl visits with a gynecologist help build trust

“It’s important for girls who are sexually active to have an annual appointment with a health care provider who can talk confidentially with them about issues they may be having, as well as diagnose and treat STDs,” Dr. Loveless said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends girls between ages 13 and 15 have a preventive health visit (well-girl visit). A pelvic exam is performed only if there is a strong reason to do so.

Make an appointment

Schedule an appointment with a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist.

This visit helps teens establish a relationship with a gynecologist, evaluate their current health (patterns and regularity of periods, cramping, etc.), and receive information and resources for staying healthy and developing healthy habits.

“We work to build a relationship with girls so that they will talk to us about issues that include sexual activity,” Dr. Loveless said. “I would much rather be able to educate a girl on smart choices, being safe and what screening is needed if she does has sex. Prevention is always better than treatment.”


Chlamydia symptoms
Gonorrhea symptoms
Many times none, but there may be:

  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Breakthrough vaginal bleeding or bleeding after sex
  • Rectal pain, discharge or bleeding after anal intercourse with an infected person
Many times none, but there may be:

  • Increased discharge from the vagina
  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Bleeding between periods


Chlamydia treatment
Gonorrhea treatment
The CDC advises that anyone with chlamydia should not have sex to prevent spreading the infection. Patients who receive a single-dose antibiotic should avoid sex for seven days, and those who get a seven-day course should not have sex until they’ve completed the medication.

If a person’s symptoms continue for more than a few days after treatment, he or she should be re-evaluated.

The CDC recommends using two drugs to treat gonorrhea — an injected antibiotic and a pill.

It’s becoming more difficult to treat the disease with antibiotics because of increasing resistance to the drugs.

If a person’s symptoms continue for more than a few days after treatment, he or she should be re-evaluated.