Chlamydia In Women
What are the signs of chlamydia in women?
It's difficult for a woman to tell if she has chlamydia – only 30% of women with chlamydia notice any signs of their chlamydia infections
Less rare symptoms of chlamydia include vaginal discharge as the most common, and also pain during urination and sudden strong urges to urinate
If you think there's a chance you have chlamydia, even if you don't have symptoms, you should get tested
If left untreated, chlamydia in women can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), and bartholinitis (inflammation of Bartholin’s glands behind the labia), and a risk of infecting partners
You can get tested for chlamydia using an online testing service like ours, or you can visit your GP or a GUM clinic
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can seriously damage a woman’s reproductive organs as well as the eyes, throat and lungs. If left unrecognised and untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility.
Around 1 in 20 sexually active women in the UK are infected with chlamydia and it is most prevalent amongst 15 - 25 year olds. It has been dubbed the 'silent infection', as it is often symptomless.
Chlamydia is spread during oral, anal and vaginal sex. You can avoid catching chlamydia by using a condom every time you have sex. Before you have sex with a new partner, you and your new partner should get tested.
Common Symptoms Of Chlamydia In Women
The chlamydia symptoms in women are often not noticeable. Only around 30% of female chlamydia patients notice the signs of chlamydia. If symptoms occur, they usually begin to show within 3 weeks of infection.
Changes In Vaginal Discharge
Chlamydia discharge in women is often caused by cervicitis (the infection of the uterine cervix). It is the most common manifestation of chlamydia in women. The discharge may be yellow or milky white.
Burning Sensation When Urinating
Chlamydia microbes can infect the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can manifest itself as pain during urination (most commonly a 'burning' sensation), as well as sudden, desperate urges to urinate. If a chlamydia infection is left untreated, it may spread from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, which can cause the following symptoms of chlamydia:
- Pain or bleeding during sex
- Bleeding (or 'spotting') between periods
- Nausea or fever
- Abdominal, lower back pain or a heavy feeling around the hips
Chlamydia Causes Infertility In Women
Chlamydia in women is a common cause of infertility. When a woman gets infected, the infection affects the cervix first (the cervix is the opening of the uterus). If the condition is not treated, the chlamydia bacteria can spread to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is believed, that chlamydia causes damage to the hairs lining the fallopian tubes, which help guide the egg from the ovaries to the womb. This damage leads to scarring, causing the tubes to become blocked. The blockage of the fallopian tubes can result in permanent infertility.
In some cases, women who have suffered scarring due to chlamydia are still able to conceive. However, they may be at risk of an ectopic pregnancy (where the baby develops in the fallopian tubes rather than the womb itself). Ectopic pregnancies can be very dangerous for the mother and need to be diagnosed as quickly as possible to prevent dangerous complications. Regular chlamydia testing and the use of condoms are important steps in preventing chlamydia and all possible complications in women.
Chlamydia and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease, better known as PID, is a bacterial infection of the womb and/or fallopian tubes. It is often caused by chlamydia and it causes chlamydia related infertility in women as described above.
The most common symptoms of PID in women are:
- Abdominal vaginal bleeding (i.e. unusually heavy periods, bleeding between period, bleeding during sexual intercourse).
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Lower back pain
Some women become ill over the course of just a few days, but the infection can also occur slowly, (if the bacteria remain at the neck of the womb it can take some time before any symptoms are felt). PID is very common in the UK, with around 1 in 50 women developing it each year. It is most prevalent among the 15 - 24 age group and a woman's chances of developing PID are much higher if she has contracted an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
The treatment for PID consists of a two week course of antibiotics. In serious cases, a stay at hospital may be required, especially if the infection causes an abscess.
The cervix (the neck of the womb) can become inflamed, which causes discomfort, bleeding and irregular discharge. Cervicitis can cause chlamydia symptoms such as pain during intercourse, burning during urination and an urgent need to urinate. If left untreated, it can result in cervical cysts, backache, deep pelvic pain and relentless vaginal discharge.
If a chlamydia infection isn't treated, it can result in the blockage and infection of the Bartholin's glands. Bartholin glands sit on both sides of the vaginal opening and release fluid during intercourse to provide lubrication. If these glands get blocked due to infection, this may result in a cyst or an abscess. These abscesses are usually red and painful and can cause a severe fever.
Diagnosis Of Chlamydia
Chlamydia is easy to test and diagnose. You can get tested at your local GP or GUM clinic (you are entitled to a chlamydia test even if you aren't experiencing any symptoms). Alternatively, you can order a test kit on our website. We provide a chlamydia urine test for men and a swab test for women, both test kits come with detailed instructions and are easy to use. As chlamydia is highly prevalent among 16 to 25 year olds, chlamydia tests are now offered at most youth clubs and universities, too.
The importance of early treatment
Prompt chlamydia treatment is very important to ensure that the infection doesn't spread and cause complications or irreparable damage. Chlamydia is treated with a single course of antibiotic, doxycycline. If you have been diagnosed, it is important that you contact all previous partners to let them know that they may be infected, too. If you would like to remain anonymous, your GUM clinic or test kit provider may be able to contact your previous partners for you.
If your test result was positive or your partner has been diagnosed with chlamydia, you can order your treatment from Zava and have it delivered to your home or work address.
Why is azithromycin no longer recommended for chlamydia?
There is now increased bacterial resistance to azithromycin. Because of this, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV only recommends Doxycycline as a first-line treatment for chlamydia infections.