In many cases, chlamydia symptoms appear within 1 to 3 weeks after being infected. Early symptoms can include abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis and pain while urinating. If left untreated, the chlamydia infection may move inside the body, possibly causing pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis in women and men, respectively. However, not everyone with the infection experiences symptoms.
Chlamydia bacteria live in vaginal fluid and in semen. Chlamydia is sometimes called the "silent" disease because you can have it and not know it.
Chlamydia symptoms usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after being infected. Those who do have chlamydia symptoms may have an abnormal discharge (mucus or pus) from the vagina or penis, or experience pain while urinating. These early symptoms of chlamydia may be very mild.
If left untreated, the infection may move inside your body. Bacteria can infect the cervix, fallopian tubes, and urine canal in women, where they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In men, the bacteria can cause epididymitis (inflammation of the reproductive area near the testicles). PID and epididymitis are two very serious illnesses.
C. trachomatis (the bacterium that causes a chlamydia infection) can cause inflammation of the rectum and lining of the eye (conjunctivitis or "pink eye"). The bacteria also can infect the throat from oral sexual contact with an infected partner.
Each year, up to 1 million women in the United States develop PID, a serious infection of the reproductive organs. As many as half of all cases may be due to chlamydial infection, and many of these women don't have symptoms. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. Researchers estimate that 100,000 women each year become infertile because of PID.
In other cases, scarring may interfere with the passage of the fertilized egg to the uterus during pregnancy. When this happens, the egg may attach itself to the fallopian tube. This is called ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This very serious condition results in a miscarriage and can cause the death of the mother.
In men, untreated chlamydial infections may lead to pain or swelling in the scrotal area. This is a sign of inflammation of the epididymis. Although complications in men are rare, infection could cause pain, fever, and sterility.