Chlamydia in women sometimes causes symptoms such as pain with urination or abnormal vaginal discharge. Many times women can be infected without having symptoms, however. This can be dangerous because they can unknowingly transmit it to sexual partners and can develop a more serious infection called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause complications such as infertility. Women who have a chlamydia infection while pregnant should be treated with antibiotics to prevent transmission to their infants. All women who receive a diagnosis of chlamydia should be tested for other sexually transmitted infections.
An infection with chlamydia can cause a variety of symptoms. Common findings include pain with urination, abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse, and pain in the lower abdomen. Although many women experience some combination of these symptoms, sometimes the infection does not cause any notable symptoms. Women might not realize they are infected, and can pass the bacteria to their sexual partners.
PID is another dangerous result of the fact that chlamydia in women can be asymptomatic. In this condition, the bacteria travel up the reproductive tract and cause inflammation of the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. In the short term, PID can cause fever, abdominal pain, and yellow vaginal discharge. Unfortunately, a common long-term complication is infertility. Women who had PID in the past are also at risk for having future episodes of this condition, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancies, and pain with sexual intercourse.
Infection during pregnancy is another special consideration with chlamydia in women. Typically, all pregnant women are screened for sexually transmitted diseases in order to prevent spreading them to their developing babies. Women found to have chlamydia during pregnancy require treatment with antibiotic medications. If women aren't treated, they can transmit the bacteria to their babies during the process of vaginal childbirth, and infants can develop eye infections or pneumonia.
After making the diagnosis of chlamydia in women, many health care professionals insist on checking them for other sexually transmitted diseases. Infection with both chlamydia and gonorrhea at the same time is a common finding. For this reason, women who receive a chlamydia diagnosis are treated with antibiotics to eradicate both gonorrhea and chlamydia. Often these women are also checked for other sexually transmitted infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and syphilis.
Other aspects of chlamydia infection are common to both men and women. Both genders can develop a condition called Reiter's syndrome, which causes arthritis, pain with urination, and conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the outer surface of the eye. Another rare complication of chlamydia infection is Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome, which causes inflammation of the area surrounding the liver. This can cause pain in the right side of the abdomen, and can also cause liver dysfunction.