Signs And Symptoms Of Chlamydia Infection

Sexually transmitted diseases are an unfortunate and serious health risk that all sexually active people must face. STDs infect an estimated 20 million people a year, putting their fertility and health at risk. It can be difficult to diagnose and treat these infections when many of them create no signs or symptoms. The most commonly transmitted STD, Chlamydia, is known as “the Silent Infection” for this reason.

All About Chlamydia

Chlamydia is an infection generated by a specific type of bacteria, known as Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is spread through sexual contact with a partner and can only be passed through the sharing of bodily fluids, either vaginal secretions or semen. It cannot be passed through skin-to-skin contact alone and is not transmitted through blood exposure either. Chlamydia is known as the most reported sexually transmitted infection with more than 1.5 million cases reported just in 2016.

Although the bacteria causes few, if any chlamydia symptoms, it is a serious infection that can cause irreparable harm if not treated. Women who contract Chlamydia are at risk for severe, permanent damage to the Fallopian tubes, which may lead to infertility or an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, a dangerous and sometimes fatal condition when a pregnancy implants somewhere other than the uterus. If a woman contracts Chlamydia while she is pregnant, the infection could result in a preterm delivery or could even be spread to the unborn fetus. In addition to the serious side effects of a Chlamydia infection, the Chlamydia bacteria is known to cause another type of infection, Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LVG for short. LVG infections can cause swelling in the genital lymph nodes and painful genital ulcers.

What are the Symptoms?

Chlamydia is a type of infection that leaves little trace of itself behind. A reported 75% of women and 50% of men with Chlamydia infections experience no symptoms. In addition, the few symptoms of Chlamydia that do present themselves don’t usually occur until a few weeks after exposure, peaking at three weeks. This can make diagnosis difficult, but it is unlikely that the infection will go unnoticed for an extended period of time. Symptoms of Chlamydia present differently between the sexes, but in either case, the infection primarily affects the reproductive system.

Symptoms in Women

For women, the infection begins in the cervix, causing inflammation and pain. The woman may then experience unusual vaginal discharge which may be described as milky or thick, have a yellow tint, and carry a strong odor. As the infection spreads from the cervix to the uterus and Fallopian tubes, the woman might develop abnormal bleeding between menstrual cycles, lower abdominal pain, pain during sexual intercourse, and bleeding following sex. The infection will eventually spread to the urinary tract, causing painful or bloody urination. If left untreated, Chlamydia will eventually lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a painful condition in which untreated infections, both sexual and non-sexual in nature, result in a more severe infection of the entire reproductive system. This can cause scar tissue to develop in the ovaries and swelling of the Fallopian tubes, resulting in infertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Symptoms in Men

The rate of STD infection is much higher among men than women, meaning men are more at risk of developing an STD than women are. An estimated 25 to 50% of men who contract Chlamydia will experience few or no symptoms of the infection. But a Chlamydia infection is just as dangerous for men as it is for women and should be taken seriously.

The most common symptom of Chlamydia infection in men is an abnormal discharge from the penis. This discharge is very similar to that experienced by women and can appear milky or cloudy and usually white. Men may also experience swelling, inflammation, and tenderness in the testicles and surrounding areas. If the infection spreads, the man will begin to experience painful or bloody urination. Males who contract Chlamydia are also at risk of developing symptoms outside of the reproductive organs, in the rectum, anus, eyes, and throat.

Chlamydia infections in men can cause significant damage. The infection can create scarring in the reproductive organs with sperm cells being particularly susceptible. This can lead to permanent male infertility, which can be caused in a few ways. First, the infection inhibits sperm production and results in sperm with lower mobility and a higher rate of abnormalities. In addition, men with Chlamydia are three times more likely to experience DNA fragmentation, when DNA strands are so loose that they become broken or damaged.

Whether male or female, an infection created by the Chlamydia bacteria is dangerous and scary. Thankfully, treatment is simple. It takes only one round of antibiotics to clear an infection of Chlamydia. Those at risk of contracting the disease should always use protection and be checked by a doctor regularly in order to maintain their health and well-being.