Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that is spread by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection takes hold in the genital areas of both men and women, infecting the penis and the vagina respectively. In this kind of STD the consequences are more severe in women as compared to those in men. This is because untreated chlamydia in women can lead to permanent damage to the reproductive system. This makes it difficult to conceive later in life. Though untreated chlamydia in men can also have adverse consequences it does not have much effect on reproductive function. Also read about the causes, symptoms and prevention of other STDs and their consequences.
The risk of infection is present when one indulges in sexual activity, whether anal, vaginal or oral sex, with a person who is already infected. Sexually active adults with multiple partners are much more susceptible to such an infection. The bacteria primarily invades the genitalia, but in rare cases it can also infect the rectum or other parts of the body.
As is the case with many STDs, chlamydia is asymptomatic in nature, so the symptoms of the infection might not appear for few weeks after one gets infected with the same. By this time however, the bacteria would have started to cause damage to the body from within. The symptoms usually surface three or four weeks after the infection is acquired.
In men the symptoms might appear as:
- Testicular pain and swollen testis
- Burning sensation during urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Abnormal discharge from the penis
In women the symptoms might appear as:
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- Lower abdominal pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
If the infection appears in the rectum area it can lead to bleeding, discharge and rectal pain in both men and women.
Read more about 7 symptoms of STDs or sexually transmitted diseases
Chlamydia infection is tested either by taking a urine sample or with a vaginal swab. In general, it is treated with oral medications and certain precautions. Sexual intimacy should be avoided if you’re taking medications to treat the condition. Remember immunity from an STD is not expected after an infection. In fact, the chances of a successive infection only increase after the first bacterial attack. For this reason it is advisable that individuals affected with this disease go for regular checks for any recurrence once in every three months, if one is sexually active.
Though chlamydia is a curable condition it can result in serious complications if left untreated.
In women: If left untreated the infection can travel to the reproductive organs of a woman from the vagina and infect the uterus and the fallopian tubes too, leading to a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease. Apart from this, other health complications that might occur are -
- Long term pelvic pain and interfere with her ability to conceive
- Painful ectopic pregnancy
- Female infertility
- Increases a woman’s chance of getting infected with the deadly HIV
In men: Prolonged infection can lead to inflammation of the urethra along with fever and pain but might not become a threat to one’s ability to reproduce. It can also make one more susceptible to other kinds of STDs, especially HIV/AIDS with an already suppressed immune system. You should also learn about the seven signs of STDs or sexually transmitted diseases.
Here is what you can do to prevent the occurrence of the infection:
- Practice safe sex. Use condoms every time you have intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.
- Avoid having sex with multiple partners. This can increase your chance of getting infected with any type of STD if one of your partners has one.
- If you are diagnosed with chlamydia refrain from sexual activity while you are undergoing treatment.
- Never neglect treatment. Keep in mind that if you have been infected your risk of contracting another type of STD is very high. So get treated promptly and adhere to your doctor’s instructions.
- Maintain proper hygiene and sanitation. This is particularly important to restrict the spread of the disease from the genital areas to other parts of the body.