Chlamydia is a silent infection. It is likely that you could have a chlamydial infection without any symptoms. Most people who do not know they are infected carry it for years. During this time, sexual contact with others can spread the infection.
If recognizable symptoms do occur, they usually appear weeks after exposure.
Symptoms in Women
- Increased or abnormal vaginal discharge
- Vaginal redness or irritation
- Painful and frequent urination
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, or bleeding between periods
- Pain or bleeding during or after sex
- Abdominal pain
Symptoms in Men
- Purulent discharge from the penis
- Burning, itchy, or painful sensation while urinating
- Inflammation and pain in the scrotum
Effects of Untreated Chlamydia
If left untreated, chlamydia can have serious health consequences in both women and men.
Complications of untreated chlamydia in women include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)—A serious infection of the reproductive tract that can lead to infertility, even in women who never have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include pelvic pain and pain with intercourse. PID causes scar tissue, or may cause an abscess to form, in the fallopian tubes.
- Ectopic pregnancy —Scarring in the fallopian tube also increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg cannot reach the uterus. It is a serious condition that may cause a rupture, bleeding, or infection inside the abdomen. A ruptured or bleeding ectopic pregnancy is considered a surgical emergency.
- Abdominal inflammation—Chlamydia and gonorrhea may cause inflammation around the reproductive organs, the appendix, or the liver. When the liver is involved, symptoms resemble gallbladder disease, with fever and pain under the right ribs. This condition is called Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome.
- Neonatal chlamydia—Pregnant women can transmit chlamydia to their newborns during birth. This may result in conjunctivitis or pneumonia in the baby.
Complications of untreated chlamydia in men include:
- Epididymitis —An infection in the structure that surrounds and attaches to each testicle. The epididymis helps transport and store sperm cells. Symptoms include inflammation and pain in the scrotum.
- Urethritis —The inside of the urethra may become inflamed, which causes burning when passing urine. If scarring occurs, narrowing of the urethra may cause difficulty with passing urine, or block urine flow completely.
- Prostatitis —An inflammation of the prostate gland. Symptoms include pain in and around the groin and pelvis, or discomfort when urinating. It may also create flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches, or fatigue.
In Women and Men
Complications in both genders include:
- Proctitis—Chlamydial infection can spread to the rectum or begin there from anal intercourse. It can cause pain, anal discharge and bleeding, and lower abdominal cramping.
- Pharyngitis—Oral sexual contact can lead to a chlamydial infection in the throat that resembles strep throat.
- Reactive arthritis —A triad of urethritis, arthritis, and conjunctivitis that appears more often in men. It is possible you may not have all 3 symptoms at the same time.
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Chlamydia—CDC fact sheet (detailed). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/STDFact-chlamydia-detailed.htm. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Chlamydia genital infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114223/Chlamydia-genital-infection. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Mishori R, McClaskey EL, WinklerPrins VJ. Chlamydia trachomatis infections: Screening, diagnosis, and management. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(12):1127-1132.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/29/2021