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Visual Signs of Chlamydia: What They Look Like and How They Differ From the Signs of Other STIs

written by: nanjowe • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 2/28/2010

Chlamydia, known as the silent infection, often has no symptoms. This makes it difficult to answer questions about what chlamydia looks like.

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    A chlamydial infection is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect the eyes (trachoma), the tracts within the genital and urinary tract (genitourinary infection) or the bacterium can infect the outside of the genitals in a rare condition called lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV). However, most commonly the bacterium infects the genitourinary tracts. The infection is spread by intimate sexual contact between infected individuals.

    For the most part, the infection has no visible symptoms and hence its name; the “silent" infection. This allows the bacterium to move undetected among individuals who are sexually active. The bacterium infects the epithelial cells that are found in the lining of the reproductive tracts resulting in damage to the reproductive system. As a result, chlamydial infections are one of the leading causes of infertility in both women and men. An infection can also be passed from a pregnant mother to her newborn baby during birth. The newborn baby ends up pneumonia or an ocular infection.

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    Symptoms of Chlamydia

    As a “silent" infection, it has no symptoms making it difficult to answer the question what does chlamydia look like? Symptoms if present are usually vague and are often overlooked or misdiagnosed. As a result, it may take several weeks to diagnose an infection after an infection has occurred.

    Women who may exhibit symptoms have:

    • An abnormal vaginal discharge
    • Painful urination
    • Pain in the lower abdomen
    • Nausea
    • Painful intercourse
    • Break through bleeding
    • Pain and fever related to the infection

    Men who have symptoms have;

    • Painful urination
    • Penile discharge
    • Testicular pain and swelling
    • Irritation around the urethra
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    Diagnosis and Treatment for Chlamydia

    To answer the question: “what does chlamydia look like?", requires a visit to the doctor’s office. The healthcare provider will:

    • Examine the infected area
    • Take an sample of the discharge to send to the lab for further examination
    • Take a urine sample

    A positive diagnosis is made after the bacteria are positively identified. .

    Chlamydia infections can be treated safely and effectively:

    • Diagnosed individuals should abstain from sexual intercourse for at least seven days while undergoing treatment.
    • A course of antibiotics (azithromycin, doxycycline, erythromycin, and ampicillin) is usually prescribed to clear up an infection.
    • If an affected individual is sexually active then the partner also needs to be tested and put on a course of antibiotics to avoid re-infection.
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    Complications

    If untreated chlamydia can cause problems within the female reproductive system:

    • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): A chlamydia infection is one of the leading causes of PID. PID commonly results in irreversible infertility. The bacteria infect the uterus, fallopian tubes or the ovaries it creates havoc on those cells leaving scars. The scars make it difficult for the fertilization of an egg and the implantation of an embryo.
    • Cystitis: This results in a painful inflammation of the bladder.
    • HIV/AIDS: The likelihood of ending up with HIV is increased in women with untreated chlamydia. This is because of the increased inflammation in the epithelial cells.

    If untreated in men chlamydia can:

    • Cause scarring in the urethra leading to painful urination and frequent urinary tract infections
    • Result in prostatitis (prostate gland disease)
    • Lead to infertility
    • Create infections in the reproductive tracts that lead to pain and fever
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    References

    Larry Lutwick: Chlamydia Genitourinary Infections: eMedicine Infectious Diseases

    STDS Facts: Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet - http://www.cdc.gov/std/Chlamydia/STDFact-Chlamydia.htm



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