Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. When transmitted through sexual contact, the bacteria can infect the urinary and reproductive organs.
The term chlamydia typically refers to the STD Chlamydia trachomatis, although two other types of this bacteria also can lead to illness: Chlamydia pneumoniae, which can be spread through coughing and sneezing, and Chlamydia psittaci, which birds can pass to humans. This article refers specifically to the STD.
Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics but often causes no symptoms, so someone can be infected without even knowing it. Untreated infections can lead to more serious health problems, such as infertility, so it's important for sexually active teens to be screened for chlamydia at least yearly by a health care provider. It's also important for them to take precautions to prevent chlamydia, and if they think they've contracted the infection, to seek treatment as soon as possible.
In many cases, chlamydia causes only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. So an infection can last for weeks or months before it is discovered.
In females, chlamydia symptoms can include:
- vaginal irritation
- vaginal discharge
- lower abdominal pain
- burning feeling with urination
Untreated chlamydia also can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can affect the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Sometimes, PID causes no symptoms; more often, it causes abdominal or lower back pain, painful urination, pain during intercourse, bleeding between menstrual periods, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or fever.
Untreated chlamydia or PID infections in females can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can lead to serious health problems such as chronic pelvic pain, infertility, or ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.
Just as in females, chlamydia might cause no symptoms in males. Those who do have symptoms might have discharge from the tip of the penis and a burning feeling during urination. Untreated infections can lead to epididymitis, an inflammation of the coiled tubes in the back of the testicles. This can result in testicular swelling, pain, and even infertility.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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