It is common to have a chlamydial infection and have no symptoms. Many people who do not know they are infected carry the infection for years. They can transmit it to others and slowly scar their genital organs. In these cases, infected people may have nonspecific symptoms, like vague back or pelvic pain, bowel trouble, painful intercourse, or loss of energy. If recognizable symptoms do occur, they usually appear weeks after exposure.
Symptoms in Men
- Purulent discharge from the penis
- Burning, itchy, or painful sensation while urinating
Symptoms in Women
- Increased or abnormal vaginal discharge
- Vaginal redness or irritation
- Painful and frequent urination
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, or bleeding between periods
- Pain or bleeding during or after sex
- Abdominal pain
Effects of Untreated Chlamydia
If left untreated, chlamydia can have serious health consequences.
Complications of untreated chlamydia in men include:
- Epididymitis—A painful swelling and inflammation of the testicles, which may lead to infertility.
- Urethritis—The inside of the urethra may become inflamed, which causes burning when passing urine. If scarring occurs, it may cause difficulty with passing urine, or block urine flow completely.
- Prostatitis—An inflammation of the prostate gland. Symptoms include pain in and around the groin and pelvis, or discomfort when urinating. It may also create flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches, or fatigue.
- Reiter's syndrome—A triad of urethritis, arthritis, and conjunctivitis.
Complications of untreated chlamydia in women include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)—A serious infection that can lead to infertility, even in women who never have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include pelvic pain and pain with intercourse. PID causes scar tissue, or may cause an abscess to form, in the fallopian tubes.
- Tubal pregnancy—Scarring in the fallopian tube also increases the risk of a tubal pregnancy and infertility. A tubal pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg cannot reach the uterus. It is a serious condition that may cause a rupture, bleeding, or infection inside the abdomen. A ruptured or bleeding tubal pregnancy is considered a surgical emergency.
- Abdominal inflammation—Chlamydia and gonorrhea may cause inflammation around the reproductive organs, the appendix, or the liver. When the liver is involved, symptoms resemble gallbladder disease, with fever and pain under the right ribs. This condition is called Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome.
Chlamydia symptoms may also appear in the:
- Rectum—Chlamydial infection can spread to the rectum or begin there from anal intercourse. It can cause pain, anal discharge and bleeding, and lower abdominal cramping.
- Throat—Oral sexual contact can lead to a chlamydial infection in the throat that resembles strep throat.
Pregnant women can transmit chlamydia to their newborns during birth. This may cause conjunctivitis or pneumonia in the baby.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2013 -
- Update Date: 05/11/2013 -