What Is Chlamydia?

Each year, over fifteen million people are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). While most people are familiar with names like gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV, far fewer people have ever heard of the most common STD in the United States Chlamydia trachomatis.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterial infection. The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimates that Chlamydia affects up to four million people every year. Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause irreparable damage in both men and women. Yet it often goes unrecognized for months.

Who can get Chlamydia?

Men or women who are sexually active are at risk for contracting Chlamydia. People who are sexually active with multiple partners are at greater risk for contracting Chlamydia than those who are in monogamous relationships.

How do you get Chlamydia?

Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex. You get Chlamydia when the bacteria are transferred from an infected partner. It is possible to contract Chlamydia even if there is no penetration. Chlamydia can also be transmitted from a mother to her newborn child during a vaginal delivery.

Because Chlamydia so often shows no symptoms, its important that all partners be treated to avoid re-infection. Its not unusual for a couple to pass the disease back and forth between them because one partner believes that he or she is not infected.

When is Chlamydia contagious?

If youve been exposed to Chlamydia, you are infectious from the time of exposure until treatment is complete. There is an incubation period of one to three weeks before symptoms if any appear, during which the bacteria can still be passed on between partners. It is not safe to assume that you are not contagious until you have completed a course of prescribed antibiotics.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a ‘silent std because it causes no symptoms at all in over half the diagnosed cases. In fact, its estimated that up to 85% of women and 50% of men experience no symptoms when they have Chlamydia. In the other cases, Chlamydia may cause any or all of the following symptoms:

    Vaginal or penile discharge The discharge may be pussy or mucous.
    Anal discharge if the infection is localized anally.
    Anal bleeding
    Light vaginal bleeding
    Vaginal bleeding after intercourse
    Conjunctivitis

In chronic cases of Chlamydia, the following symptoms may also be present:

    Yellowish vaginal discharge
    Smelly vaginal discharge
    Lower abdominal pain
    Lower back pain
    Spotting (including after sex)
    Abdominal or back pain that worsens during menstruation)

Complications of Chlamydia

Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause a great deal of damage. It may result in pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, scarring of the fallopian tubes, epidymitis, infertility (in both males and females) and urethritis (in both males and females). In addition, if Chlamydia is passed from mother to newborn child, it may cause conjunctivitis, pneumonia or Chlamydia in the newborn. If the mother has Chlamydia during pregnancy, she is more at risk of having a low birth weight or premature child.