Healthy Living

Chlamydia in Women

Chlamydia in Women

Key Takeaways

  • Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections that affect women, especially in the U.S.
  • Chlamydia is similar to the sexually transmitted disease called gonorrhea in terms of its symptoms and pattern.
  • People having sex without a condom will be at great risk of acquiring not only chlamydia, but also other sexually transmitted infections.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is considered to be the most common sexual disease which can be transmitted in US.  The sexual transmission disease (STD) is most commonly found in women more than men. It is an infection which is mainly caused by bacteria known as Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is similar to gonorrhea having similar pattern and symptoms. It is also similar in pattern of transmissions.

Most of the people including both women and men get infected with chlamydia but do not show any symptoms because they are not aware of infection. The infection in the Chlamydia can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes in the woman body. It may lead to the future infertility and it can increase risk of ectopic pregnancy. The infection caused by Chlamydia during pregnancy may also increase woman's risk during pregnancy and in preterm labor. It can cause low weight in new-born babies.

Chlamydia is a disease that is usually spread by sexual contact with someone who has the infection. The main gateways of this disease are through vaginal sex and anal sex. It is also spread through oral sex. It can also be spread by touching your eyes if your hands are contaminated with infected fluid. An infected mother can also pass the infection to her baby. Chlamydia is not spread through kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, and sitting on the toilet. It is also not spread through sharing food and drinks with an infected person.

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections that affect women, especially in the U.S.  Every year, about 1.2 million women are affected by this infection. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. STIs are commonly passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse.

Chlamydia is similar to the sexually transmitted disease called gonorrhea in terms of its symptoms and pattern.

The difficulty of this disease is that infected men and women in the early stages are asymptomatic. Women may not be able to recognize that they have acquired the infection as they will not experience any symptoms. In women, the infection can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, which can lead to future infertility. It also causes a high risk of ectopic pregnancy.

If women are infected with chlamydia during pregnancy, then it increases their risk of having preterm labor and tends to deliver newborns with low birth weights. Another strain of chlamydia that causes lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), which is a lymphatic infection, is also on the rise. 

Chlamydia has almost no symptoms of the infection in women. It is very difficult to know whether women have been infected with chlamydia or not. Men who acquire chlamydia usually develop an infection in the urethra, which causes urinary tract infection (UTI), burning pain during urination, blood in the urine, or frequent urinating. In women, the infection usually damages the cervix first and may lead to infertility if left untreated.

If this disease is not treated, it can spread to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. Using male condoms can be one the preventive measures to reduce or stop the spread of infection. Having sex without a condom will only lead to a higher risk of getting exposed to STIs. The commonly used antibiotics for chlamydia are azithromycin and doxycycline. It is important to be aware of this disease and work toward its prevention rather than treatment. As the saying goes, "Prevention is better than cure."

Causes of Chlamydia

The infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis usually affects the cervix, urethra, vagina, and rectum of an infected person. Sometimes, the bacteria can be found in the throat. The infection is spread through any type of sexual contact: vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

The disease is mostly observed in young sexually active people. If a pregnant woman has chlamydia, she can pass the infection to her baby at the time of birth, as the baby is going to pass through the vaginal canal. Chlamydia can cause eye damage and pneumonia in newborn babies. Even though the person has already been cured of the infection, there is still a possibility that the infection can occur again.

Signs and symptoms of chlamydia

Chlamydia is commonly referred as a "silent infection" due to its asymptomatic characteristic. However, the infection can cause permanent damage to the reproductive tract, so it is very important to recognize this disease early on and treat it. 

In the UK, around 1 in 20 women are infected with chlamydia. Moreover, the infection is commonly seen among women aged 15-25 years old. It can be spread while having oral, anal and vaginal sex.

When symptoms begin to appear, they are similar to gonorrhea. Symptoms may gradually appear and may take up to several weeks for the initial infection to develop. The major symptom of chlamydia in women can be vaginal discharge and abdominal pain while penile discharge and testicular pain are usually experienced by men.

If the symptoms are not diagnosed early, then the infection can spread to the pelvic organs, which can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The symptoms of PID include pelvic pain, fever, cramping, and abdominal pain.  It also causes pain during sexual intercourse.

It is said that only around 30 percent of women with chlamydia notice the signs and symptoms. 

Chlamydia Trachomatis bacteria

Lymphogranuloma venereum is also a type of STD which is more common and has become part of the fast developing world. It may cause different strain of the Chlamydia bacteria.

Chlamydia is an infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. The infection causes due to the fact that the bacteria can be present in the various parts of the body such as urethra, cervix, vagina, and rectum of the person who has the infection. The bacteria can be also found in the throat. The type of sexual contacts such as (vaginal, anal, or oral) can easily spread the infection among the people rapidly.

According to the medical survey among the people of all ages, it is found that the disease Chlamydia is mainly found among the young people who are sexually active. Most of the young men and women are at high risk for chlamydia.

The infected mother too can easily spread the infection to the baby during the time of birth, when the baby comes out through the vaginal canal. The common complications of chlamydia can be acquired through the birth canal can be by the damages to the eyes and having pneumonia in the new-born babies.

Silent Infection

The infection can get back again for chlamydia and it can cause severely even after getting the infection. It can be repeated, even after getting the infection successfully cured for the first time. The disease can come back again and again depending on the person and his activities

It is found that most women with the infection of chlamydia do not show any signs or symptoms of the infection and it makes difficult to treat the person immediately.  It is not easy to known if a person is suffering from the infection of chlamydia. The infection is referred to as a “silent” infection because it works silently.  The chances are high that the infection can cause permanent damages to the reproductive tract and it is required to be dealt with severely. It is very important to know about the infection and it is needed to be cured bwfore it gets spread. It is very important to recognize disease at the primary stage when it can be easily cured without any difficulty. The main damage the infection Chlamydia does is that it severely infects the cervix with inflammation (cervicitis) in women.

Some of the symptoms which are very common and occur whe the infection of the disease Chlamydia start working over the body. The person can get similar symptoms as that of gonorrhea. Most of the symptoms are having acute pain in the abdomen, and it also include vaginal discharges along with Infection in the urethra which can cause pain or burning sensation with urination combined with blood in the urine. The person always feels urinary urgency where it feels like having continuous need to urinate.

Changes in vaginal discharge

Chlamydia discharge in women is often caused by a uterine cervix infection. The color of the discharge can be yellow or milky white. Some women also experience a burning sensation while urinating. The infection can also affect the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection or UTI.

UTI causes painful and burning sensations while urinating along with the sudden and desperate urge to urinate. If the infection is not cured, then it can spread from the cervix to the fallopian tubes resulting in bleeding and pain during sex, spotting between periods, fever, and lower back pain.

Chlamydia results Infertility in women

Chlamydia can damage the hairs that line the fallopian tubes. The tiny hairs are known as "cilia" that help transport the fertilized egg to the womb.

Although chlamydia can cause scarring in women, there are cases where women are still capable of conceiving. If a woman has chlamydia and gets pregnant, she is at high risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg is implanted in the fallopian tube rather than the womb or uterus. Having an ectopic pregnancy can be very dangerous for the mother. For this reason, pregnant women with chlamydia should be diagnosed early to prevent possible complications. To prevent acquiring this sexually transmitted infection, get regularly tested and make use of condoms every time you engage in sexual intercourse.

In most of the cases when the chlamydia infections are not treated then it gets about 30% of cases having infection in the pelvic organs and it leads to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The common symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease can be having continuous pelvic pain, pain while having sexual intercourse. Sometime the person will have high fever, cramps and abdominal pain.  The pelvic inflammatory disease causes scarring and it damages the reproductive organs severely, if not treated immediately, resulting infertility.

In most of the men too, the infection can cause health problems and the symptoms can be seen in form of penile discharges and having burning sensation while urinating. The pain and the area around the testicles gets swollen for long.

Chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease, also called as "PID", is a bacterial infection of the womb or the fallopian tubes. Pelvic inflammatory disease is usually caused by chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea. The symptoms of PID are abdominal vaginal bleeding (heavy period), bleeding between periods, or bleeding after sexual intercourse. PID also causes pain during sex. Abnormal vaginal discharge, fever, and lower back pain are the main symptoms of PID.

Some women may start to feel ill in the early stage of infection, while it may take 2-3 weeks for some women to experience any symptoms. PID in the UK is quite common with 1 in 50 women infected annually. Women with PID are usually treated with a two-week antibiotic course. If the case is extreme and other complications arise, the patient needs to be hospitalized for further care and treatment.

Cervicitis

Inflammation of the cervix is called cervicitis. It can result in pain during sexual intercourse, burning sensations during urination, and causes an urgent need to urinate. If cervicitis is not promptly treated, it can result in cervical cysts, backache, deep pelvic pains, and vaginal discharge.

Bartholinitis

Another complication called bartholinitis develops if chlamydia is left treated. Bartholinitis is the blockage and infection of the Bartholin’s glands, which are mucus-secreting glands of the vagina. If these glands are blocked due to an infection, it can result in the formation of cysts or abscesses. These abscesses are in red color and can also cause fever.

Diagnosing chlamydia

Laboratory testing is usually performed to diagnose chlamydia. 

The recommended test for the identification of chlamydia is through the nucleic acid amplification test or NAAT. The test identifies the DNA of C. trachomatis and is considered as a more specific and sensitive test for chlamydia. The only samples needed for NAAT are vaginal swabs or urine from men and women. It is an easier and a more convenient method compared to pelvic examinations in women.

Other tests for chlamydia can also be carried out but are less sensitive when it comes to detecting the infection. They include:

  • Bacterial culture
  • Direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) stain
  • DNA probe

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all sexually active women less than 25 years old should be regularly tested every year for chlamydia. Moreover, pregnant women, women who are 25 years old and above, and women with multiple sex partners should also be tested for chlamydia.

Importance of early treatment

Getting an early treatment for chlamydia is very important to make sure that the infection does not spread and cause permanent damage to other parts of the body. If women are diagnosed with chlamydia, then it is necessary to inform their partners, so they can also be treated. Chlamydia test kits are available and can be ordered online and delivered to your home or office for convenience.

Treatment 

Since chlamydia is caused by bacteria, it can be treated using antibiotic therapy. Treatment can last for 7 days or more. Women who are infected with chlamydia should avoid having sexual intercourse while on treatment to prevent the infection from being transmitted to other people. The commonly used antibiotics for chlamydia are azithromycin and doxycycline. Pregnant women can also take antibiotics such as azithromycin, amoxicillin, and erythromycin ethylsuccinate.

The disease of Chlamydia is needed to be treated carefully and effectively. The diagnosis of the disease mainly depends on the laboratory test where it will be found out about the infection and the presence of organism using the techniques of culture or identification of the genetic material of the bacteria. The older and most time-consuming method – culture can be used to identify the bacteria and is no longer routinely used.

In other, routine diagnostic purposes the rapid tests are conducted to identify the bacterial genetic material which causes the infection. The other tests conducted are nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs). The specimen for NAATs is successfully obtained at the time of gynaecologic examination while swabbing the cervix.  The diagnostic tests are conducted on the either urine samples or self-collected vaginal swabs.

The disease Chlamydia can be cured effectively when used the antibiotic therapy. The antibiotics given for a period of 6-7 days in form of a course is always useful in controlling the disease. During the course of medication women should avoid having sex for a period of one week. The antibiotics - azithromycin and doxycycline work effectively on the Chlamydia disease successfully. Even the antibiotic treatment is useful and highly effective for the pregnant women who are suffering from the deadly infection of Chlamydia in short span.

If the infection of the disease chlamydia can progress to pelvic inflammatory disease when not treated on time. The untreated infection may lead serious consequences and the complications which include permanent damages to the reproductive organs and it may affect the ability of fertility completely. It may also cause problems to the pregnant women and the new born babies which are affected by the infection of the disease chlamydia.

Prognosis 

If chlamydia is not treated right away, then it can lead to serious consequences. It includes permanent damage to the reproductive organs, which includes infertility problems and the increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. Chlamydia in pregnant women can cause pneumonia and low birth weight of a newborn baby. Untreated chlamydia can also lead to other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV infection. 

Prevention 

Most of the time, people who are infected with chlamydia show no symptoms. That is why the early detection and treatment of chlamydia is somewhat difficult. 

Male condoms can be used to effectively reduce or stop the spread of chlamydia. People having sex without a condom will be at great risk of acquiring not only chlamydia, but also other sexually transmitted infections.

Sexual partners must be limited to avoid going back and forth with the infection. There should be a limitation of sexual contact to one uninfected partner. Sexual contact should be temporarily avoided if a person is infected with chlamydia. It is highly recommended to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

If there are any genital symptoms such as vaginal or penile discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, or a sore rash in your genitals, immediate action should be taken. 

Doctors recommend that any person who is having sex with more than one partner should get regularly tested with or without the symptoms.