Although many people may be asymptomatic and not experience any signs of infection, those that do have symptoms typically experience vaginal pain and bleeding, pain or burning when urinating, and/or discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum.
Only about 10% of penis infections will show symptoms, while about 5-30% of vaginal infections will show signs. Less than 50% of rectal and throat infections will show symptoms, though this is not as well studied.
In persons with a penis, chlamydia symptoms include:
If left untreated, people with a penis may experience a painful condition known as epididymitis, wherein the tube that transports sperm to the testicles becomes inflamed.
Though this complication is rare, it can be painful and cause reduced fertility and even sterility.
Another rare, but important complication of untreated chlamydia is scarring of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. This scarring can cause a stricture which can block the flow of urine and requires surgical correction once it occurs.
In persons with a vagina, symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for common vaginal yeast infections, bladder infections, or urinary tract infections (UTIs), making it essential to get testing done to determine the exact cause of symptoms. Chlamydia symptoms can include:
If chlamydia is left untreated, people with a vagina have a higher risk for developing long-term complications known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This occurs when the infectious bacteria spreads up the reproductive tract to the uterus and/or fallopian tubes. Chronic abdominal pain and even infertility can occur, the risk of ectopic pregnancy also increases. Other symptoms of PID include fever, severe pelvic pain, nausea, and abnormal bleeding between periods.
Pregnant parents with chlamydia may also pass the bacteria on to their newborn in the birth canal during delivery. This can lead to eye infections, and in sporadic cases, pneumonia infections in the newborn.
Individuals of any gender may experience rectal chlamydia infections. Symptoms typically include:
Rectal chlamydia infections are more common in men who have sex with men and individuals who have receptive anal sex. However, some people with vaginas may experience rectal infection in the absence of anal sex due to the proximity of the anus to the vagina.
Oral/throat infections are less common than genital and anal infections. Though most oral infections have no symptoms, those that do may experience:
Performing oral sex on someone with a chlamydia infection can transmit the condition to your mouth and/or throat.
Chlamydia can cause infection of the eye when infected fluid comes into contact with the eye. This infection is known as chlamydial conjunctivitis. Symptoms include:
A chlamydia infection anywhere in the body can cause arthritis (swollen, painful joints) and uveitis (swollen, painful eyes) several weeks after the infection. This is why prevention of this infection is so important.
Chlamydia is easily diagnosable and treatable.
Only a lab test will be able to tell you if you currently have chlamydia. If you believe you're infected with chlamydia, the best thing to do is to seek out a local health care provider and get tested.
Read the next article for more information regarding chlamydia treatments.
This year, Freddie awarded $2,000 to one student from the LGBTQ2S+ community pursuing their education. After reviewing nearly 100 applications, our selection committee chose Rakhshan Kamran as the winner. Check out our interview with him!
COVID has resulted in many changes in social habits and safety practices, so patients have had questions about PrEP and COVID. Our team has compiled some answers for you below. Have a read!