Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that’s most common in the genital area. That said, it’s possible to contract a chlamydial eye infection, often referred to as inclusion or chlamydial conjunctivitis.

Chlamydia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC), is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the US with about 2.86 million infections occurring annually.

Although Chlamydia trachomatis occurs in all age groups and affects both men and women, it is most common in young women. The CDC estimates that 1 in 20 sexually active women aged 14-24 has chlamydia.

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Though not as common as viral conjunctivitis, chlamydia can cause redness and swelling of the eyelids and the whites of the eye.

Inclusion conjunctivitis and trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that can cause swelling and itching. The bacteria that causes this infection is Chlamydia trachomatis.

Chlamydia trachomatis is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in developing countries.

Chlamydia trachomatis can be spread through contact, either direct or indirect. At first, the infection may appear similar to the initial inflammatory symptoms of trachoma. However, it’s actually connected with the strains of chlamydia trachomatis that result in the genital infection.

Symptoms of a chlamydial eye infection include:

Newborns can contract a chlamydial eye infection, as the bacteria can pass to the child from the vaginal canal during delivery. Research shows 30 to 50 percent of infants whose mother has a chlamydial infection will contract neonatal conjunctivitis.

The best way to prevent passing a chlamydial eye infection to your newborn is to ensure you’ve been treated for chlamydia prior to giving birth.

Chlamydial eye infections are treatable through antibiotics. Early detection is important because the condition may worsen over time. Your doctor will likely determine your condition using a laboratory test for the specific strain.

Treatment is generally effective within a few weeks, but it’s possible to experience the condition again even if you have been treated for it in the past.

Chlamydial infections are commonly associated with the genitals as the infectious bacteria is typically passed from one person to another during unprotected sex. Chlamydia trachomatis can also affect the eyes if the bacteria come in contact with them. The symptoms are similar to pink eye.

Speak with your doctor if you believe you’re experiencing a chlamydial eye infection. Treatment is generally effective in a relatively short time frame.