What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is one of the more common and serious types of bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STI). Chlamydia is generally transmitted through oral, vaginal or anal intercourse and can be spread undetected in women, without any apparent chlamydia symptoms such as pelvic pain or abnormal vaginal discharge.
For this reason, it is important to get regular STD testing from a health care practitioner even if you do not show signs of STD symptoms, in order to prevent more serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility.
Chlamydia Signs and Symptoms
Many women never show visible signs or symptoms of Chlamydia. For those who do, STD symptoms of Chlamydia may only begin to develop two to six weeks after a Chlamydia infection. These STD symptoms can be mild and go undetected in women. Men often have no visible symptoms and can unknowingly spread Chlamydia as well.
In women, Chlamydia symptoms can include the following:
- a change in vaginal discharge
- burning sensation during urination
- pain in the lower abdomen
- fever and chills
- painful intercourse
- vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods or after intercourse
In men, some symptoms of Chlamydia can include the following:
- watery or milky discharge
- itchy sensation in genitals
- burning or painful urination
- testicular pain or swelling
Chlamydia Treatment and Diagnosis
A Chlamydia test involves a simple and easy urine test that is available in most health centers, such as a sexually transmitted diseases clinic or at your doctor's office. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics for the treatment of Chlamydia following a diagnosis.
Treatment for Chlamydia frequently involves one dose of antibiotics taken orally. It is important that your sexual partner be tested and treated for Chlamydia as well, as re-infection is likely to occur if your partner is also infected.
Long-Term Risks and Complications
Left untreated, Chlamydia may develop into more serious health complications. Symptoms of prolonged Chlamydia infection without treatment and potential complications of this STD can include the following in women:
- pain in the abdomen that does not go away
- infection that spreads to other reproductive organs
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- fertility complications
The long-term effects of Chlamydia in men are not well known or understood. However, some conditions include the following:
- inflammation of the epididymis, a tube located near each testicle
- spread of infection to the prostate gland (prostatitis)
Chlamydia infection has been shown to put an infected individual at higher risk of acquiring HIV. It is also possible for a pregnant woman to transmit Chlamydia to her newborn through the vaginal canal during delivery, which can cause eye infections that may lead to blindness or lung infection and pneumonia.