- Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be easily cured.
- If left untreated, chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant.
- The most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system, making it difficult or impossible for her to get pregnant. Chlamydia has also been associated with potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb). Chlamydia can increase the risk of spreading other STDs, including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
How is chlamydia spread?
Chlamydia is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with chlamydia.
Chlamydia can be spread from a male or female partner and can be passed to a baby during childbirth. Receiving treatment for chlamydia does not guarantee prevention from reinfection.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may not appear until several weeks after having sex with an infected partner.
Symptoms in women can include:
- An abnormal vaginal discharge.
- A burning sensation when urinating.
Symptoms in men can include:
- A discharge from the penis.
- A burning sensation when urinating.
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common).
Men and women can also get infected with chlamydia in their rectum, either through receptive anal sex, or from another infected site (such as the vagina). Symptoms can include:
- Rectal pain
A healthcare provider should be consulted if any of these symptoms are present.
What are the risk factors for chlamydia?
A risk factor is the chance that something will harm or otherwise affect a person's health. Anyone who has sex can get chlamydia through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. However, sexually active young people (under age 25) are at a higher risk of getting chlamydia.
Risk factors for chlamydia include:
- Engaging in unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
- Having sex with new or multiple sex partners.
- Being a man who has sex with men.
- Having HIV.
- Being sexually active and under 25 years old.
- Having a sexual partner who is infected with chlamydia. Chlamydia can increase the risk of spreading other STDs, including HIV.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for chlamydia or other STDs. If you have any of these risk factors, you should be tested for chlamydia every year.
How can I reduce my risk of getting chlamydia?
The only way to avoid chlamydia is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
If you are sexually active, the following could lower your chances of getting chlamydia:
- Being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for STDs, including chlamydia.
- Using latex condoms correctly every time you have sex.
Are there tests for chlamydia?
There are laboratory tests to diagnose chlamydia. For women, a healthcare provider may ask for a urine sample or use a vaginal swab to test for chlamydia.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. It is important to take all of the medication prescribed by a healthcare provider to cure the infection. When taken properly, the medication will stop the infection and could decrease future complications. Medication for chlamydia should not be shared with anyone.
Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. Testing for chlamydia again three months after treatment ends is recommended.
I was treated for chlamydia. When can I have sex again?
You should not have sex again until you and your sex partner(s) have completed treatment. If your doctor prescribes a single dose of medication that is taken once, you should wait seven days after taking the medication before having sex. If your doctor prescribes medication for you to take for seven days, you should wait until you have taken all of the doses before having sex. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely.
If you have chlamydia, you should tell your sex partner(s) so they can get tested and treated, if necessary.
What happens if I don't get treated?
The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems.
In women, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some of the complications of PID are:
- Formation of scar tissue that blocks fallopian tubes.
- Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb).
- Infertility (inability to get pregnant).
- Long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.
Men rarely have health problems linked to chlamydia, however, infection may spread to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever. Rarely, chlamydia can prevent a man from being able to have children. Untreated chlamydia in both men and women can also increase risk for contracting or spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
What are the implications of chlamydia on pregnancy?
Women who are pregnant and infected with chlamydia can pass the infection to their baby during childbirth. This could cause an eye infection or pneumonia in the newborn. Pregnant women with chlamydia are also at risk for having a preterm birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Pregnant women should be tested for chlamydia at their first prenatal visit.
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Content last reviewed on March 29, 2019