Chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States and affects an estimated . This stealthy bacterial infection is easily spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
Although easily treated, chlamydia can be difficult to detect, because the men and women infected rarely show symptoms. However, if left untreated, chlamydia can have serious, lifelong consequences for women, making regular STD checks and well-woman visits a must if you’re sexually active.
Lifecycle of Chlamydia Trachomatis
Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, which enters the body during sexual contact through the urethra, rectum, or mouth. Most people with chlamydia don’t know they have it. In fact, about 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men show no symptoms.
For this reason, chlamydia spreads easily and may be unknowingly passed to sexual partners. When chlamydia symptoms do occur, they are usually noticeable within one to three weeks of contact.
Although symptoms may disappear after a few weeks, if left untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious complications. In women, the bacteria can spread through the reproductive system, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, peritonitis, and other infections that can lead to infertility or complications during pregnancy.
Chlamydia Symptoms in Men
The signs and symptoms of a chlamydia infection depend on the part of the body infected. Symptoms of chlamydia in men include the following:
- Painful urination
- Burning and itching around the opening of the penis
- Clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
- Pain and swelling around the testicles
- Rectal pain or bleeding
- Inflamed eye
Chlamydia Symptoms in Women
Although both men and women are diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in equal numbers, they are not affected equally. Women are more likely than men to experience long-term health complications from untreated STIs such as chlamydia, including infertility. What’s more, pregnant women can pass STIs to babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
Symptoms of chlamydia in women include the following:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odor
- Bleeding between periods
- Painful periods
- Abdominal pain with fever
- Pain during sex
- Itching or burning in or around the vagina
- Painful urination
- Rectal pain or discharge
- Inflamed eye
Less common symptoms may include sore throat, right upper abdominal pain, or joint pain. It's good to know that other STD's can be what causes vaginal discharge as well.
Is Chlamydia Curable?
The good news is chlamydia can be treated with oral antibiotics such as azithromycin or doxycycline, which can be prescribed by a doctor at GoHealth Urgent Care.
Once treated, chlamydia symptoms disappear in about two days, and the infection clears up in one to two weeks.
If you have chlamydia, your partner(s) should also be treated to prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease.
After taking antibiotics, you should be retested after three months to be sure the infection is cured. It’s important to abstain from sex until both you and your partner are sure you no longer have the disease.
Get Checked at Urgent Care
If you or your partner show any signs of chlamydia, you should seek medical care, especially if you’re pregnant – and this goes for any STD!
At GoHealth Urgent Care, STD testing includes a physical exam, as well as blood and urine tests. In some cases, the doctor will use a swab to collect a sample from the affected area.
Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of an STD, you should get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex or if you’re sexually active and not in a mutually monogamous relationship.
Women under 25 are especially vulnerable to chlamydia, so it’s important for them to get checked annually at their well-woman visit. Pregnant women should be tested for chlamydia regardless of their sexual history.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant