Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is spread through oral, vaginal or anal sex.
Because the cervix (opening to the uterus) of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured, they are at particularly high risk for infection if sexually active. Even newborns can be infected! During vaginal childbirth, an infected mother can pass Chlamydia to her newborn that can result in complications, including infant pneumonia.
The surest way to avoid transmission of any sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected. Latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmission of Chlamydia. This means using condoms in all forms of sex: oral, vaginal and anal.
About three quarters of infected women and about half of infected men actually show no symptoms. Those who have reported symptoms say that they appear from one to three weeks after they were exposed to someone with Chlamydia.
In women, the bacteria first infects the cervix and the urethra (urine canal). Women who do have symptoms might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. When the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, some women still have no signs or symptoms. Other women, however, may experience nausea, lower abdominal pain, fever, low back pain, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. At times, Chlamydia can even spread to the rectum.
Men with signs or symptoms might have a discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. They might also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis. Men or women who have anal intercourse may get Chlamydia in the rectum, which can cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding. Chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected partner.
Even though symptoms of Chlamydia are usually mild or absent, there can be serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility. One possible complication, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), if left untreated, can cause infertility or more frequent periods. Severe cases may even spread to the liver and kidneys causing dangerous internal bleeding, lung failure and death.
Chlamydia can be detected in sexually transmitted infection screening and treated immediately with antibiotics. Indeed, the only sure way for a person who has been at risk for Chlamydia to tell whether they’re infected is to be tested.
After treatment, all sexual partners must be treated again to avoid possible transmission to others and re-contamination of you. Yes, you can get it back from your partner who may not even know they have it!