Chlamydia is defined as a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that affects both men and women. The condition is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Men can get this STI in their urethra (inside of the penis), throat, and rectum while women can develop it in the cervix, rectum, and throat.
Both men and women get infected by the bacteria and develop this STI through sexual contact only i.e. during oral, anal, or vaginal sexual intercourse with a person who is infected too. People who have already had chlamydia in the past can get re-infected if they have unprotected sex.
Signs and Symptoms to watch out for
As mentioned above, Chlamydia can be asymptomatic, but in some cases, patients do experience different symptoms. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia appear within five to ten days after contracting the infection.
Symptoms of Chlamydia in women are:
- Abdominal pain
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding during sex
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Frequent need to urinate and discomfort while urinating
- Low-grade fever
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Swelling in the vagina or around the anus
- Vaginal discharge in large quantities appears yellow with bad odor
Signs and symptoms of Chlamydia in men are:
- Tender and swollen testicles
- Penile discharge (milky, watery, or pus)
- Burning sensation and pain while urinating
- Itching and burning around the opening of the penis
Consequences of having Chlamydia
Chlamydia is associated with a number of complications including a higher risk of getting other STDs. In addition, Chlamydia can cause obstruction and scarring in the fallopian tubes, which could make female patients infertile.
Chlamydia is also associated with:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes that cause fever and pelvic pain. Severe PIDs may require hospitalization.
- Prostatitis – men can deal with complications of Chlamydia too. For example, the infection can spread to the prostate gland and cause prostatitis which is indicated by symptoms such as lower back pain, fever and chills, painful urination, pain during sexual intercourse, and others.
- Epididymitis – Chlamydia can affect epididymis (coiled tube beside each testicle) and cause infection.
- Reactive arthritis – It’s also important to mention that people who have Chlamydia are at a higher risk of developing reactive arthritis or Reiter’s syndrome. Reactive arthritis usually affects joints, urethra, and eyes
- Infections in newborns – pregnant women with Chlamydia may spread the infection to their baby too which can lead to eye infection and pneumonia
When to see the doctor
If you’re a sexually active man or woman, it’s strongly recommended to see your doctor and get tested once a year. This is particularly important for women who are younger than 25 and people with multiple sex partners and who tend to engage in unprotected intercourse. Of course, it’s useful to consult the doctor if you suspect that you have Chlamydia and in case you experience the above-mentioned symptoms.
Due to a number of complications associated with Chlamydia, further tests may be useful. For example:
- Ultrasound for diagnosis of PID
- A laparoscopy that allows the doctor to view your pelvic organs
- Blood tests for PID, prostatitis
- Imaging tests (CT scan, x-ray)