Chlamydia a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can damage reproductive organs.
How is it transmitted?
The most common way to spread Chlamydia is through vaginal, oral, or anal contact with someone who is already infected.
What are the symptoms?
In the beginning there are no symptoms. Men may have a white or clear water drip from the penis. Women may have more discharge (flow) from the vagina than usual. It may also burn or hurt to pee. You may have these signs one to three weeks after sex with someone who has Chlamydia. Later, women may also feel pain in their lower belly.
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. When the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes (tubes that carry 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. Chlamydial 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 Chlamydial 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 it treated?
Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics.
All sex partners should be evaluated, tested, and treated. Persons with Chlamydia should abstain from sexual intercourse until they and their sex partners have completed treatment, otherwise re-infection is possible.
Women whose sex partners have not been appropriately treated are at high risk for re-infection. Having multiple infections increases a woman's risk of serious reproductive health complications, including infertility. Retesting should be considered for women, especially adolescents, three to four months after treatment. This is especially true if a woman does not know if her sex partner received treatment.
What happens if Chlamydia is left untreated?
Chlamydia is a serious disease. If you dont get treated, it can spread in your body, causing males to become sterile and increasing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women. PID can cause tubal pregnancies and infertility. Both men and women may not be able to have children. If you are pregnant, your baby can be born sick with Chlamydia.
In women, untreated infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This happens in up to 40 percent of women with untreated Chlamydia. PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues. The damage can lead to chronic pelvic pain and infertility. Women infected with Chlamydia are up to five times more likely to become infected with HIV, if exposed.
To help prevent the serious consequences of Chlamydia, screening at least annually for Chlamydia is recommended for all sexually active women age 25 years and younger. An annual screening test also is recommended for older women with risk factors for Chlamydia (a new sex partner or multiple sex partners). All pregnant women should have a screening test for Chlamydia.
Complications among men are rare. Infection sometimes spreads to the epididymitis (a tube that carries sperm from the testis), causing pain, fever, and, rarely, sterility.
How is it prevented?
Latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of Chlamydia.
Chlamydia screening is recommended annually for all sexually active women 25 years of age and younger. An annual screening test also is recommended for older women with risk factors for Chlamydia (a new sex partner or multiple sex partners). All pregnant women should have a screening test for Chlamydia.
Any genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination or an unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to consult a health care provider immediately. If a person has been treated for Chlamydia (or any other STI), he or she should notify all recent sex partners so they can see a health care provider and be treated. This will reduce the risk that the sex partners will develop serious complications from Chlamydia and will also reduce the person's risk of becoming re-infected. The person and all of his or her sex partners must avoid sex until they have completed their treatment for Chlamydia.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor or nurse can obtain a sample for testing from the parts of the body likely to be infected (cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat) and send the sample to a laboratory for analysis. Chlamydia that is present in the cervix or urethra can be diagnosed in a laboratory by testing a urine sample.