Chlamydia In Women (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
- What is chlamydia?
- What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
- How is chlamydia diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for chlamydia?
- Chlamydia At A Glance
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
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. It is common and affects approximately 4 million women annually. 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.
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, about 30% of 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 and even lifesaving.
Because it is common for infected women to have no symptoms, chlamydial infection is often untreated and results in extensive destruction of the Fallopian tubes, tubal pregnancy.
Chlamydial infection, like gonorrhea, is associated with an increased incidence of premature births. In addition, the infant 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 dire consequences of chlamydial eye infection to the newborn.
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