How Serious Is Chlamydia?

Reviewed on 8/24/2020

Untreated chlamydia can cause serious health problems
Untreated chlamydia can cause serious health problems

Chlamydia infection often gets unnoticed or overlooked because it causes no symptoms in most people. Untreated chlamydia disease, however, can cause serious health problems with both short- and long-term complications.

How do you get chlamydia infection?

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. It is caused by infection with the bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is transmitted by having unprotected sex with a person who has chlamydia. It has recently emerged as a cause of outbreaks of proctitis (inflammation of the rectum) among men who have sex with men (MSM). Chlamydia is transmitted by sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner. The transmission does not need ejaculation to occur. The infection can also pass from an untreated mother to her baby during childbirth.

Chlamydia infection can be prevented by using latex male condoms. These condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of getting or giving chlamydia. The most definitive way to prevent chlamydia is to abstain from vaginal, anal, and oral sex or to be in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for chlamydia and is known to be uninfected.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia infection?

Symptoms of chlamydia infection often go unnoticed. Some people experience symptoms within a few weeks of exposure (unprotected sex), whereas for others, symptoms may take months to appear. Sometimes, the symptoms disappear on their own, but the infection persists (subclinical chlamydia).

The symptoms include the following:

Symptoms in females

  • Vaginal discharge often reported as unusual or foul-smelling
  • Dysuria (Pain while urinating)
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvic region
  • Dyspareunia (Pain during intercourse)
  • Bleeding through the vagina after sex or between periods
  • Infertility
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Premature delivery
  • Pain the in rectum
  • Anal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Throat pain or discomfort

Symptoms in males

  • Watery or whitish discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Pain while passing urine
  • Burning or itching in and around the tip of the penis
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Pain in the joints
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Anal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Infertility
  • Throat pain or discomfort


Condoms are the best protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See Answer

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