Chlamydia can be present for months without producing any uncomfortable symptoms Table 01. Because chlamydia does not always cause symptoms, it is called an asymptomatic disease. Symptoms of chlamydial infection, when and if they do occur, are discharge from the penis or vagina, and pain and burning with urination in women and men. Although less common, pain and swelling can occur that is localized in the eye (conjunctivitis), sex organs, (swelling of the fallopian tubes) or rectum (proctitis). Pain and swelling in the liver has been known to occur but it is very rare.
Up to 70% of women and 25% of men with chlamydial infection have no symptoms. However, some people have symptoms as soon as seven to ten days after exposure to the bacteria.
Table 1. Symptoms of Chlamydial Infection
Women Men An unusual, yellowish vaginal discharge Pus or watery or milky discharge from the penis Itching or burning in the genital area Burning with urination Abdominal or pelvic pain Swollen and/or painful testes Burning with urination Frequent urination Low-grade fever Burning or itching at the opening of the penis Urge to urinate more than usual Bleeding between menstrual periods Bleeding after intercourse
Young people who engage in high-risk sexual activity have the greatest risk of acquiring chlamydia Table 02. If you are sexually active and have more than one partner, you put yourself at greater risk for getting chlamydia. However, certain types of sexual behavior increase your risk even further. The type of contraception, if any, that you use, your rate of acquiring partners, your number of casual partners, your sexual preference, and type of sexual practice are factors to consider when trying to determine your risk. For example, gay men are less likely to get chlamydia because the rectum and the throat are much less susceptible to the bacteria than is the inner cervical area of women (located in the upper part of the vagina). Vaginal sex, as opposed to anal or oral sex, is the way that chlamydia is most commonly spread.
Women are at a greater risk of chlamydia than men. The internal part of the cervix is the most susceptible to infection. A penis is protected by skin, which is not as porous. The penis has only one small opening at the tip that reveals any tissue that the bacteria is able to enter through.
The rate of infection is highest among women ages 15-19, and is especially high among members of lower socioeconomic groups.
Table 2. Risk Factors for Chlamydial Infection
Age (under 25) Being female Multiple sex partners Infected sex partner Inconsistent use of barrier contraceptives Sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol High rate of acquiring new partners Having partners who have multiple partners themselves
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