Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. The Chlamydia Trachomatis bacterial agent is responsible for genital tract infections. Chlamydia infections are transmitted from one person to another by close personal contact, namely, sexual contact. In pregnancy, the STD can also be passed onto your child through birth canal passages. Primarily, it is spread unknowingly through unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person.
In males, Chlamydia Trachomatis causes Urethritis – the inflammation of the urethra. In females, it may cause Cervicitis (inflammation of the uterine cervix), Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), and Salpingitis (inflammation of fallopian tubes). Prolonged infection in females can be fatal and may also damage the reproductive system.
It’s important to know that not all infected patients will exhibit symptoms. A large proportion, about 70% for women, does not show or experience any sign of Chlamydia. However, even if you don’t show symptoms, the bacteria could still be living inside your body and may cause other infections too.
Chlamydia symptoms in women
In females, the symptoms of Chlamydia vary from person to person. Because of the complicated nature of infections, it is difficult to discern the signs. The symptoms of Chlamydia are usually noticeable within two to three weeks of contact.
Here are common symptoms of Chlamydia in females.
- Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is not something to worry about, but if it is accompanied by pelvic pain or bleeding, it could indicate a chlamydial infection. If the discharge is abnormal, meaning yellowish with a strong, unpleasant odor, it may also be a cause for concern.
- Bleeding after intercourse
In females with this STD, unusual bleeding occurs in females after vaginal intercourse. The bleeding can be heavy or minor. Along with bleeding, females also experience pain in the abdominal or pelvic regions. If these symptoms recur frequently, it may indicate Chlamydia.
- Pain during Intercourse
Extreme discomfort, pain in the lower abdominal region, or pain in the vagina during intercourse can all be signs of Chlamydia.
- Bleeding between Periods
Bleeding in between your menstruation cycle is a distinct symptom of Chlamydia in non-pregnant females. The bleeding may be heavy, so it’s best to consult a doctor immediately.
- Pain during Menstruation
A symptom of this STD in females is heavy bleeding during menstruation, accompanied by abdominal pain. Heavy bleeding is often considered normal, but if it’s out of the ordinary for you, we recommend getting a medical check-up for the infection.
- Pain during Urination
A burning sensation during urinating points to some irritation or inflammation in the urinal tracts – a sign of Chlamydia. The Chlamydial bacteria begins with affecting the vaginal tracts in females.
- Bleeding after Intercourse
If you spot small blots of blood after intercourse, don’t ignore them. Bleeding after intercourse can indicate Chlamydia in females.
- Vaginal Discomfort
Females with this STD may experience itching, irritation, inflammation, or a burning sensation around the vagina. There may also be scarring and lesions on the vaginal area too.
A fever indicates that your body is fighting an infection. Thus, in Chlamydia, or it’s later progression – PID, you may experience a high fever.
- Abdominal pain
Constant pain in the lower abdominal area may be due to Chlamydia. Females might experience sharp bouts of pain during any fluid discharge or excretion, as well.
- Other Symptoms
Chlamydia can also cause eye redness and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Infections in the throat may also occur if the infection is transmitted through oral sex. Sometimes a sore throat and pneumonia can also indicate Chlamydia.
Complications in young females
If left untreated, Chlamydia can cause harm to the reproductive system. In adolescents and young females, repeated episodes of salpingitis and PID can result in infertility. PID leads to scarring of the fallopian tubes, which deliver eggs to the uterus.
Further progression of PID can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the womb. Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy develop between the 4th and 12th week of pregnancy.
Infants born to an infected mother may develop pink-eye (conjunctivitis) Some may also develop pneumonia two to twelve weeks after birth.
Diagnostic Tests for women
For an accurate diagnosis, you’ll have to get certain laboratory tests and physical examinations done. Tests involve sending urine samples and swab samples from the cervix of the infected person to the laboratories for analysis. However, for females who don’t show any symptoms, a gram stain, bacteria culture, and NAAT test are performed to detect the presence of Chlamydia. Or you can see our Chlamydia Test to get tested at home.
Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine against this STD. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, like azithromycin, oral erythromycin, or doxycycline (for cases with pneumonia). Following treatment, the infection typically subsidizes within two or three weeks, but that does not mean Chlamydia is completely eliminated from the body.
Doctors also recommend treatment for your partner if you have Chlamydia as a safety measure. In severe infections, often in pregnancy complications, women are hospitalized and treated with intravenous antibiotics.
The best preventive measure against this STD is to practice safe sex. Get tested regularly for STDs so that you can start treatment early. You may also be carrying the bacteria without any outward symptoms. Make sure you get retested after your antibiotics treatment, as well, and refrain from any sexual activity until the treatment is completed.
Chlamydia is a tricky STD to spot in females.
Most women with Chlamydia are asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms and are thus unaware of the infection. Women, in particular, need to be vigilant and take preventive measures against Chlamydia because it can have adverse effects on them – such as infertility.
Warren Levine, Review of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, fourteenth edition.