Chlamydial infection of the neck of the womb (cervicitis) is a sexually transmitted illness which isasymptomatic for about 50-70% of women infected with the disease. The infection can be passed through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Of those who have an asymptomatic infection that is not detected by their doctor, approximately half will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a generic term for infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/orovaries. PID can cause scarring inside the reproductive organs, which can later cause serious complications, including chronic pelvic pain, difficulty becoming pregnant, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and other dangerous complications of pregnancy. Chlamydia causes 250,000 to 500,000 cases of PID every year in the United States. Women infected with chlamydia are up to five times more likely to become infected with HIV, if exposed.
Chlamydia is known as the "Silent Epidemic" because in women, it may not cause any symptoms in 75% of cases, and can linger for months or years before being discovered. Symptoms that may occur include: unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain in the abdomen, painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), fever, painful urination or the urge to urinate more frequently than usual (urinary urgency).
In men, Chlamydia shows symptoms of infectious urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) in about 50% of cases. Symptoms that may occur include: a painful or burning sensation when urinating, an unusual discharge from the penis, swollen or tender testicles, or fever. Discharge, or the purulent exudate, is generally less viscous and lighter in color than for gonorrhea. If left untreated, it is possible for Chlamydia in men to spread to the testicles causing epididymitis, which in rare cases can cause sterility if not treated within 6 to 8 weeks. Chlamydia causes more than 250,000 cases of epididymitis in the U.S. each year. Chlamydia is also a potential cause of prostatitis in men, although the exact relevance in prostatitis is difficult to ascertain due to possible contamination from urethritis.
For sexually active women who are not pregnant, screening is recommended in those under 25 and others at risk of infection. Risk factors include a history of chlamydial or other sexually transmitted infection, new or multiple sexual partners, and inconsistent condom use. For pregnant women, guidelines vary: screening women with age or other risk factors is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force(USPSTF) (which recommends screening women under 25) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (which recommends screening women aged 25 or younger). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening all at risk, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend universal screening of pregnant women. The USPSTF acknowledges that in some communities there may be other risk factors for infection, such as ethnicity. Evidence-based recommendations for screening initiation, intervals and termination are currently not possible. There is no universal agreement on screening men for chlamydia.