Chlamydial ("kla-MID-ee-uhl") infection is a curable sexually transmitted infection (STI), which is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. You can get genital chlamydial infection during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual contact with an infected partner. It can cause serious problems in men and women as well as in newborn babies of infected mothers.
Chlamydial infection is one of the most widespread bacterial STIs in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 4 million people are infected each year. Health economists estimate that chlamydial infections and the other problems they cause cost Americans more than $2 billion a year.
What Are the Symptoms of This STI?
Because chlamydial infection does not make most people sick, you can have it and not know it. Those who do have symptoms may have an abnormal discharge (mucus or pus) from the vagina or penis or pain while urinating. These early symptoms may be very mild. Symptoms usually appear within one to three weeks after being infected. Because the symptoms may be mild or not exist at all, you might not seek care and get treated.
The infection may move inside the body if it is not treated. There, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and epidydimitis in men, two very serious illnesses.
C. trachomatis can cause inflamed rectum and inflammation of the lining of the eye ("pink eye"). The bacteria also can infect the throat from oral sexual contact with an infected partner.
How Does the Doctor Diagnose Chlamydial Infection?
Chlamydial infection is easily confused with gonorrhea because the symptoms of both diseases are similar and the diseases can occur together, though rarely.
The most reliable ways to find out whether the infection is chlamydial are through laboratory tests. Usually, a doctor or other health care worker will send a sample of pus from the vagina or penis to a laboratory that will look for the bacteria.
The urine test does not require a pelvic exam or swabbing of the penis. Results from the urine test are available within 24 hours.