Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease, the most common one in the United States. Both men and women can develop chlamydia, but the effects of the disease are potentially more damaging to women than to men.
Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is passed along almost exclusively through sexual acts: vaginal, oral or anal. A pregnant mother with chlamydia can also pass the disease to her baby at birth.
Symptoms and Complications
In many cases, a person can be infected with chlamydia but show no symptoms of the disease. This can make it easy to pass the disease along via sexual contact. If the disease does present symptoms, both men and women may experience a burning sensation when urinating, as well as an abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina. Men may also experience pain and discomfort around the tip of the penis or the testicles. Women might have symptoms such as fever, nausea, bleeding between periods or pain in the abdomen or back or pain during sex.
Perhaps the greatest risk of chlamydia is the potential for complications in women. Left untreated, chlamydia can potentially spread to the fallopian tubes and uterus. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease, and if untreated, it can lead to an ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain or infertility.
Treatment of Chlamydia
Because chlamydia is almost always transmitted sexually, the best way to prevent the spread of the disease is with safe sexual practices, such as the use of condoms. It may also be wise for people who have multiple sex partners to get tested frequently for the disease because chlamydia often has no symptoms. If you do contract chlamydia, the disease is easy to treat with a course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Office on Women's Health
Researchers are now testing a vaccine to prevent chlamydia.