Chlamydia has been a global problem for most of the population for many years now. It’s an extremely prevalent bacterial infection that can be transmitted through sexual contact. It’s so common that the number of infected is estimated at 2.86 million people every year. This sexually transmitted infection is present in 2.7% of men and 4.2% women globally. In other words, 1 in every 20 females who are sexually active have chlamydia. Around two-thirds of those infected, both females and males, are 15 to 24 years old with a higher prevalence rate in females. In 2015, this infection caused around 200 deaths. It’s a serious infection that is overlooked due to its often asymptomatic nature. But, if the infection is diagnosed and recognized on time, it can help those infected avoid serious health complications. Here we will focus on how to spot the symptoms of chlamydia, what can happen if a person leaves those symptoms untreated, and how do these symptoms actually look like. This is our detailed analysis of chlamydia symptoms that can be useful for those seeking to steer clear from sexually transmitted infections.
Chlamydia Signs in Females and Males
Chlamydia is often called the silent infection and for a good reason. 70% to 80% of those infected experience no signs of bacterial infection. 50% to 70% of females will not develop any signs despite being exposed to the bacteria for a long time. The same applies to men since 50% of them won’t experience any signs at all.
The bacteria can linger in the system for years or months on end before it’s finally diagnosed. But, by then, there is a 50% chance the infection will cause abdominal pain, abnormal and unusual discharge, and bleeding from the reproductive organs, fever, and more.
There are exceptions, and some people do develop signs that can help with early detection.
If not properly managed, it can be transmitted to a sexual partner through oral, vaginal, anal sex. It can also infect the eyes and throat if they come in contact with the infected vaginal fluid or semen.
If you do ignore the signs, however, it can have serious health consequences. This infection can reduce fertility in men, cause infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and ectopic pregnancy in women. This has made chlamydia a serious issue for those who don’t know they carry it.
Chlamydia in Male Genitals
Chlamydia in male genitals is often recognized by:
- penile discharge,
- pain, and discomfort.
The most prevalent sign of chlamydia infection is penile discharge. A white and clear penile discharge after sexual intercourse or arousal is completely normal. However, if the penile discharge contains pus or is cloudy and bleeding, it could be a sign of chlamydia. This type of discharge is often accompanied by a strong itching sensation and could be painful.
The picture below depicts a cloudy and watery discharge emerging from the tip of the penis. In this particular example, the discharge is the result of a chlamydia infection, but in many cases, it could be a sign of any other STI or bacterial infection.
Aside from discharge, chlamydia can cause swollen testicles, as depicted in the image below. In this particular example, the left side of the image shows a healthy testicle, while the right side depicts an inflamed testicle and epididymis. Here, chlamydia has manifested in the male genitals and has resulted in painful inflammation.
Chlamydia in Female Genitals
Chlamydia in female genitals is often recognized by:
- vaginal discharge
- bleeding when not on period
- Pain and discomfort when urinating
- Bleeding immediately after sexual intercourse
For most women, chlamydia will infect the opening to their uterus, known as the cervix. This is the type of infection that causes discharge and redness. If left untreated, there is a high chance it will travel to the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. In such cases, chlamydia can result in pelvic inflammatory disease and cause painful intercourse, inflammation, and abdominal pain.
The image below depicts a cervix inflammation in the early stages and has resulted in redness and vaginal discharge. Complications have not yet occurred, but if this infection isn’t properly managed, it can cause serious complications in the fallopian tubes and result in infertility or ectopic pregnancy.
In this particular example, the discharge is white and can easily be confused with a harmless discharge. But, the infected fluid can have a very strong smell. If the color of the discharge is yellow, it could mean the vagina has been infected and could possibly carry chlamydia.
Aside from discharge and a cervix inflammation, chlamydia can also cause blood in the urine. Infected females can experience vaginal bleeding or spotting after intercourse or between periods.
Individuals infected with chlamydia can get pus in their urine, which will cause the urine to look cloudy and have a foul smell. This will result in inflammation and cause a burning sensation when the infected individual is trying to urinate.
However, it’s slightly different from a typical urinary tract infection. A urinary tract infection will result in a very quick burning sensation when a person is trying to urinate, but chlamydia will take its time and progress very slowly. The pain sensations will increase with time, the odor as well.
The image below depicts a typical urinary tract infection. It shows how any bacteria from the rectum or the skin will travel up the urethra and cause the infection.
Trachoma or chlamydia conjunctivitis is an eye infection that causes redness and pain in the eyes. Based on 2002 statistics, trachoma is the cause of 3.6% of blindness globally. What most people don’t know is that chlamydia can be transmitted through being in contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid. If that bacteria gets into the eyes, it can infect the socket and manifest inside the eye.
These images below are a perfect representation of conjunctivitis caused by chlamydia. The infection has manifested inside the eye and has resulted in inflamed sockets and redness throughout the entire eye.
When the throat comes in direct contact with infected semen, it has a high chance of getting infected with chlamydia. This type of infection is often confused with the flu or common cold.
In this particular example depicted in the picture below, the throat has been infected by chlamydia. It’s accompanied by dental issues, mouth pain, and sore throat. The bacterial infection has manifested in the soft palate and has affected the uvula, pharynx, including the left palatine tonsil.
Chlamydia rectal infections can include rectal bleeding, discharge, and pain. This type of infection can make it very difficult to enjoy intercourse since penetration can be painful.
In the image below, you can see a female rectum infection that causes redness and discharge. Chlamydia has infected the rectum, and the bacteria have manifested in the exterior of the anal canal.
Pain in the Stomach or Pelvic Area
When chlamydia is left untreated, there is a 30% chance, and the infection will spread towards the pelvic organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This disease is often associated with sharp, dull, or cramping pelvic pain. The pain will usually start from the pelvic area and travel to the abdomen.
The image below is a clear representation of pelvic inflammation. In this particular example, chlamydia has infected the entire uterus and fallopian tubes.
The second picture is a typical example of a normal versus an inflamed fallopian tube. The left side of the image shows a healthy fallopian tube, while on the right side, inflammation has affected the area and caused the tube to double in size.
Chlamydia can cause reactive arthritis. This chronic type of arthritis causes inflammation in the urinary, gastrointestinal, and genital systems and can occur in both women and men.
The image below depicts a CT scan of reactive arthritis that has enhanced the lesions of the prostate. The arrows show the peripheral zone, which is the affected area.
Chlamydia in Newborns
During childbirth, a mother can transmit chlamydia to her baby. This bacterial infection can cause pneumonia and eye infections in children.
The images below depict a typical eye infection caused by chlamydia. It causes swelling of the eyelids and green or yellow drainage from the sockets. This type of infection needs immediate treatment.
Aside from eye infections, chlamydia can cause pneumonia in newborns as well. This type of health problem makes babies more sleepy than usual, causes coughing, fever, difficulty, or fast breathing. The image below depicts a CT scan of a newborn with pneumonia. The black arrows depict the frontal and mid-lung field of the affected area that represents round pneumonia.
Chlamydia is often asymptomatic; in other words, very few of the infected actually experience the signs. For those who do, it’s important to recognize them to get early treatment and avoid serious health complications.