Chlamydia In Women (cont.)

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What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) is a bacterium that causes an infection that is very similar to gonorrhea in the way that it is spread and the symptoms it produces. Like gonorrhea, the chlamydia bacterium is found in the cervix and urethra and can live in the throat or rectum. Both infected men and infected women frequently lack symptoms of chlamydia infection. Thus, these individuals can unknowingly spread the infection to others. Another strain (type) of Chlamydia trachomatis, which can be distinguished in specialized laboratories, causes the STD known as lymphogranuloma venereum, which affects the lymph glands.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

The majority of women with chlamydia do not have symptoms. Cervicitis (infection of the uterine cervix) is the most common manifestation of the infection. While about half of women with chlamydial cervicitis have no symptoms, others may experience vaginal discharge or abdominal pain. Infection of the urethra is often associated with chlamydial infection of the cervix. Women with infection of the urethra (urethritis) have the typical symptoms of a urinary tract infection, including pain upon urination and the frequent and urgent need to urinate.

Chlamydia is very destructive to the Fallopian tubes. It can also cause severe pelvic infection. If untreated, some women with chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease. Symptoms of pelvic infection include fever, pelvic cramping, abdominal pain, or pain with intercourse. Pelvic infection can lead to difficulty in becoming pregnant or even sterility. Occasionally, if the infection is severe enough, a localized area of infection and pus (an abscess) forms, and major surgery may be necessary.

Because it is common for infected women to have no symptoms, chlamydial infection is often untreated and results in harm to the Fallopian tubes, fertility problems and tubal pregnancy.

Chlamydial infection, like gonorrhea, is associated with an increased incidence of premature births. In addition, the fetus can acquire the infection during passage through the infected birth canal, leading to serious eye damage or pneumonia. For this reason, all newborns are treated with eye drops containing an antibiotic that kills chlamydia. Treatment of all newborns is routine because of the large number of infected women without symptoms and the serious consequences of chlamydial eye infection to the newborn.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2014

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