Chlamydia: Symptoms, Causes Diagnosis & Treatment

Medical review: Dr. Sheila Sedicias
Gynecologist
June 2022
  1. Symptoms 
  2. Causes
  3. Diagnosis
  4. Treatment

Chlamydia is a sexually-transmitted infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria that can affect both men and women, It often presents without any symptoms, however some people may notice changes to vaginal discharge or burning with urination. 

A chlamydia infection can occur following unprotected sex. Men will typically present with an infection on the urethra, rectum or throat, while women will more commonly experience this infection in the cervix or rectum. 

This illness can be evaluated through a symptom assessment of the symptoms, but it a diagnosis confirmed with testing. Therefore, if you suspect you may have been infected with chlamydia, you should see your family doctor or an infectious disease specialist for diagnosis and treatment, which usually involves antibiotic use. 

Chlamydia symptoms 

Symptoms of chlamydia can emerge 1 to 3 weeks following unprotected sex. Although some people may not present with any signs or symptoms, they are still able to transmit the bacteria. The main symptoms of chlamydia in women are: 

  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Vaginal discharge, similar to pus
  • Pain or bleeding with sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • Bleeding outside of your period 

If a chlamydia infection is left untreated, it is possible for the bacteria to spread to the uterus and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This is one of the most common causes of infertility and miscarriage in women. 

Symptoms of this infection in men are similar. They often experience:

  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Urethral discharge
  • Testicular pain and swelling
  • Urethral inflammation 

If left untreated, this bacteria can cause orchitis, which is an inflammation of the testicles that can impact the production of spermatozoids. 

Causes of chlamydia

Chlamydia is an infectious disease caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. It can be transmitted through any form of unprotected sex: oral, vaginal or rectal. People with multiple sexual partners have a higher risk of getting infected. 

In addition, chlamydia can also be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery if the infection is not appropriately treated during pregnancy.

Risks of chlamydia during pregnancy 

A chlamydia infection during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, fetal death and endometritis. Because this infection can spread to the baby during a vaginal birth, it is important to screen for this infection as a part of routine prenatal testing and to follow treatment as necessary. 

Babies who are affected during delivery can develop complications like conjunctivitis or pneumonia. These illnesses can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by the pediatrician. 

Confirming a diagnosis

A chlamydia diagnosis is confirmed by the doctor through evaluation of the presenting symptoms and lab testing. Specimen, like vaginal discharge, perianal discharge or urine, can be collected and assessed in the lab to identify the presence of the chlamydia bacteria. 

Since chlamydia does not present with any symptoms in some cases, people over the age of 25 who are sexually active and with multiple partners should complete regular STI testing.

Once pregnant, STI testing should also be apart of regular prenatal screening, as this way, any risks of transmitting infection to the baby can be reduced. 

Treatment options

The treatment of chlamydia involves the use of prescription antibiotics, like a single dose of azithromycin or a 7-day course of doxycycline. You should continue treatment as indicated by the doctor, even if you do not have any signs or symptoms, as this will ensure full elimination of the bacteria. 

Treatment should also be completed by the sexual partner, even if condoms were used. In addition, you should avoid any sex while treating to prevent reoccurrence. 

With the right treatment, it is possible to completely resolve the infection, however other related complications, like pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility, can be permanent. 

Is there a cure of chlamydia? 

Chlamydia can be easily cured with a 7-day course of antibiotics. To ensure that the infection is cured, you should avoid any unprotected sex during treatment. 

People with HIV will be prescribed the same treatment. There is no need for a different intervention or hospital admission. 

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em June de 2022. Medical review por Dr. Sheila Sedicias - Gynecologist, em June de 2022.

References

  • CLAMÍDIA. Boston Public Health Commission. 2017. Available on: <https://bphc.org/whatwedo/infectious-diseases/Infectious-Diseases-A-to-Z/Documents/Fact%20Sheet%20Languages/Chlamydia/Portuguese.pdf>. Access in 28 Oct 2021
  • UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL FLUMINENSE. Chlamydia trachomatis: a epidemia silenciosa. Available on: <http://www.dst.uff.br/arquivos-pdf/clamidia.pdf>. Access in 28 Oct 2021
Medical review:
Dr. Sheila Sedicias
Gynecologist
Physician graduated in Mastology and Gynecology by UFPE in 2008 and member no. 17459 of CRM-PE, Brazil.