Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. (1) It is known as the “silent” disease because most infected individuals do not have symptoms. One in four infected males is asymptomatic. An estimated 30 percent of women with chlamydia have symptoms. (2)
Irreversible damage to a woman’s reproductive organs can occur before she is aware that she is infected. Untreated, chlamydia poses a greater threat for serious health complications in women than in men. Awareness of transmission and prevention of the infection is vital for all sexually active individuals.
How is Chlamydia Spread?
The infection is caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. The bacteria are spread during vaginal, oral and anal sex. It can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth.
Who is at Risk?
Any sexually active person is at risk. Your risk of infection increases if you have multiple sexual partners. Teenage girls and young women are at particularly high risk. The cervix or opening to the uterus is not fully matured and probably more susceptible to infection.
What are the Symptoms?
In women, Chlamydia trachomatis initially infects the cervix and the urethra. The urethra is the tube which carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. Women, who have symptoms, might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating.
If the infection spreads to the fallopian tubes, a woman with symptoms may experience lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse or bleeding between menstrual periods. Chlamydia can spread to the rectum.
In men, chlamydia causes a discharge from the penis or a burning sensation when urinating. They might have itching and burning around the opening of the penis. In rare cases, there is pain and swelling of the testicles.
Women and men, who have receptive anal intercourse, can acquire a chlamydial infection in the rectum. The infection causes rectal pain, discharge and bleeding. Chlamydia is found in the throats of men and women who have oral sex with an infected person.