Chlamydia

Signs and symptoms

Women

Symptoms of infection may show up at anytime. Often this is between 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. However, symptoms may not emerge until a long way down the line. The majority of women who are infected with chlamydia will have no symptoms at all.

Possible symptoms are:

• a slight increase in vaginal discharge - caused by the cervix becoming inflamed
• a need to pass urine more often/pain on passing urine
• lower abdominal pain
• pain during sex
• irregular menstrual bleeding
• a painful swelling and irritation in the eyes (if they are infected)

Men

Symptoms of infection may show up at anytime. Often this is between 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. However, symptoms may not emerge until a long way down the line. Men are more likely to notice symptoms than women. However, they too may have no symptoms.

Likely symptoms are:

• a discharge from the penis which may be white/cloudy and watery and stain underwear
• pain and/or a burning sensation when passing urine
• a painful swelling and irritation in the eyes (if they are infected) Chlamydia in the rectum rarely causes symptoms.

How chlamydia is passed on?

Chlamydia can be transmitted by:

• having sex with someone who is infected
• a mother to her baby at birth
• occasionally, by transferring the infection on fingers from the genitals to the eyes

The tests for chlamydia

• An examination of your genital area is carried out by a doctor or a nurse.
• Samples are taken, using a cotton-wool or spongy swab, from any place which may be infected.
• Women are usually given an internal pelvic examination.
• Men are given an external examination of their testicles (balls) to check that these are healthy.
• A sample of urine is usually taken.

None of these tests should be painful, but may sometimes be uncomfortable.

Chlamydia will show up on the tests a few days after you have been in contact with it, often before you have any symptoms.

Diagnosis and treatment

Samples taken during the examination are sent to a laboratory for testing, and the result is available usually within one week.

The treatment for chlamydia is simple and effective once it has been diagnosed. You will be given antibiotic tablets.

If you are allergic to any antibiotics or if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant, it is important that you tell your doctor. This will affect which antibiotics you are prescribed.

It is important that you finish any course of treatment for chlamydia . If treatment is interrupted, it may be necessary to start again from the beginning.

If you have chlamydia, a health adviser will explain the infection to you and answer your questions. The health adviser will also ask you about your sexual partner(s), so that they can get a check-up and treatment if necessary.

You should not have penetrative sex (when the penis enters the vagina, mouth or anus) until you have returned to the clinic and been given the all-clear by the doctor.

Follow-up

It is important to return for a check-up once you have completed the treatment to make sure you are well and have no other infection.

Complications

Women

• If untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is an inflammation of the fallopian tubes (the tubes along which an egg passes to get to the womb). PID can lead to problems with fertility. Many cases of infertility can be traced back to infection with chlamydia.
• If a woman has chlamydia when she is pregnant she risks having an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb) or a premature birth. The infection can be passed on to the baby, giving it an eye or lung infection. Chlamydia can be safely treated during pregnancy.
• Chlamydia can also lead to chronic (long-term) pelvic pain.

Men

Complications caused by chlamydia in men are uncommon. But it may lead to painful inflammation of the testicles, which can cause infertility.

Men and women

• Reiters syndrome is a result of chlamydia. It causes inflammation of the eyes and joints and sometimes a rash on the soles of the feet and genitals.
• Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix) can also be caused by chlamydia.

Remember, after treatment, using condoms during sex can reduce your risk of getting or passing on sexually transmitted infections.