Chlamydia is one of the most commonly reported bacterial infections among sexually transmitted diseases. Global statistics on the disease, obtained from WHO 2001 report, shows that an estimated 92 million new cases of Chlamydia occurred in 1999, affecting women (50 million) much more than men (42 million). Today it is estimated that there are 4 million new cases of Chlamydia occurring each year in the United States. The good news is that it is a highly curable disease but it is important to get medical treatment for Chlamydia since if left untreated it can lead to major complications later in life.
Chlamydia is caused by bacteria known as the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. It is known as the ‘silent STD’ because in many cases people infected with Chlamydia may not reveal any symptoms at all or if they do, may be very mild so as to be mistaken for some other less serious cause. Symptoms, where present, generally begin to appear 1 to 3 three weeks after exposure to the bacteria. However if you find that you have the following symptoms get yourself checked for Chlamydia.
Chlamydia in women
It is estimated that as many as 70-75% of women infected with Chlamydia continue to remain asymptomatic. However that does not mean that the infection is any less dangerous than other conditions.
- Women infected with Chlamydia may first notice an unusual vaginal discharge or an unexplained increased in discharge. This happens due to an inflamed cervix.
- They may also experience pain or a burning sensation while passing urine. Besides difficult urination, one may also feel the urge to urinate more frequently than before.
- Yet another sign to watch out for Chlamydia is pain during sexual intercourse of bleeding after intercourse.
- Lower abdominal pain may also be experienced by women suffering from Chlamydia. This may be because the infection has caused the inflammation of the outer lining of the bladder and led to a condition known as cystitis. The pain in lower abdomen can range from mild to severe in some women.
- Irregular menstrual bleeding is another symptom of Chlamydia.
- If left untreated for a long time, Chlamydia may lead to severe symptoms in women. One such symptom is constant and deep lower pelvic pain or lower backache which may be a sign that her fallopian tubes or cervix has become infected. In case of cervicitis, a woman may experience yellowish vaginal discharge besides pain during sex. These are much more serious conditions and difficult to treat as compared to initial stages of Chlamydia.
Chlamydia in men
Men are more likely to notice symptoms of Chlamydia as compared to women because it is unusual for them to experience the related symptoms while in case of women, some of the symptoms of Chlamydia may be common to other infections like pelvic diseases or yeast infections. However as many as 50 percent of men infected with Chlamydia continue to remain free from symptoms even while they are infected.
- Men infected with Chlamydia generally experience a white or cloudy discharge from the penis that may leave stains on the underwear.
- Discomfort while passing urine may occur among men as a result of Chlamydia. In severe cases, they many experience pain or a burning sensation while urination.
- If the infection is left untreated for long, it may lead to painful inflammation of the tube system known as Epididymitis. This usually marked by swollen and painful testicles.
- Prolonged untreated Chlamydia in men may also lead to a yellow or clear pus-like discharge to collect at the tip of the penis. Accompanied with painful urination, this is a sign of urethritis or inflammation of the urethra.
Both in cases of men and women, Chlamydia may affect other parts of the body as well like throat, lungs, liver and eyes. In case the infection affects the eye, a person will develop irritation and painful swelling in the eyes which may even lead to conjunctivitis.
Men and women who have anal sex may develop symptoms related to Chlamydia in the rectum. This is marked by bleeding from the anus, rectal pain or discharge.
Again if individuals engage in oral sex with an infected partner, the infection may develop on the throat, marked by pain and burning sensation.
Complications from Chlamydia
While Chlamydia is relatively easier to cure, it must be diagnosed and treated at the outset of the infection. If left untreated over a long period of time, Chlamydia may lead to severe complications which in both sexes include appendicitis and Reiters syndrome marked by inflammation of eyes and joints besides rashes in genital areas or soles of the feet. In women it may result in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (or PID) which can in turn lead to ectopic pregnancy, premature childbirth or even female infertility. According to an estimate as many as 30 percent of women infected by Chlamydia and left untreated go on to develop PID. If a pregnant woman has Chlamydia, she can pass it on to her baby during childbirth who may then develop eye or lung infection. Also a prolonged bout of Chlamydia may lead to cervicitis causing cysts in the cervix which too may get infected.
Among men, complications arising out of untreated Chlamydia are relatively rare but long-term infections may cause epididymitis which is an inflammation of the tube system and which may eventually lead to infertility. Yet another result may be urethritis which left untreated may cause constant discomfort in urination and even potential kidney problems.
These were some of the major symptoms of Chlamydia and signs of complications in cases where it is left untreated over a long period of time. All it takes is a short antibiotic course to treat Chlamydia. However once a person gets cured , it is important to get a retesting done so as to be sure that the person is completely healed and there is no recurring infection.