Chlamydia trachomatis - commonly known as chlamydia - is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium of the same name. Many people do not experience any symptoms of chlamydia, while some do.
Common symptoms of chlamydia include:
- Clear or white discharge from the vagina or penis
- Burning pain during urination
- Testicular pain in men
- Itching or burning sensations around the vagina in women
- Bleeding between menstrual periods and after intercourse in women
In addition to the sex organs, chlamydia can infect the rectum which may cause rectal bleeding, pain, and discharge. Bodily fluids carrying the bacteria can also infect the eye, causing conjunctivitis (pink eye).
Symptoms of chlamydia may be so mild that you don’t even notice them. If left untreated, however, chlamydia can lead to serious complications.
Complications that may result from a chlamydia infection include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): PID is an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can be extremely painful and may damage the reproductive organs.
- Infertility and sterility: A chlamydia infection can damage reproductive organs in both men and women. If left untreated, chlamydia can damage and scar these areas so badly that the infected person is unable to conceive children.
- Newborn infection: The chlamydia bacteria can be passed to a child during delivery, resulting in illness and infection of the child. In some cases, infection to a newborn can be life-threatening.
- Premature birth or ectopic pregnancy: A chlamydia infection increases the risk of giving birth too early, which can be dangerous for the newborn child. Additionally, chlamydia increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy, a condition in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus. The egg must be removed to avoid life-threatening complications.
Chlamydia is generally treatable and very preventable. If you are sexually active, regular STI screenings can help prevent the spread of chlamydia. Latex condoms can also prevent intimate contact that transmits chlamydia. Regular screenings, limiting your sexual partners, and practicing safe sex are all methods that play a key role in preventing a chlamydia infection.