What is chlamydia? | How can you get chlamydia? | What are chlamydia symptoms? | How common is chlamydia? | What complications can result from chlamydia? | What is the treatment for chlamydia? | How can I protect myself against chlamydia? | More information about chlamydia
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). The disease is caused by the bacterium known as Chlamydia trachomatis. Any sexually active person can get a chlamydia infection – even if they have had chlamydia and have been treated before. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly encourages an STD test for chlamydia at least once each year for anyone who is:
- Sexually active and not in a monogamous (one partner) relationship
- Sexually active and at high risk for STDs, especially those having sexual relations with a new partner or multiple partners
- Pregnant women (of any age)
Chlamydia can be transmitted during any sexual contact including vaginal, anal, or oral sex; it can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. You can help protect yourself against chlamydia by getting regularly tested – at least once a year if you're sexually active and not in a monogamous (one partner) relationship. You can also help guard against chlamydia by using condoms and dental dams during sex.
Remember, chlamydia is sometimes called a "silent" disease because symptoms are usually mild or absent. In fact, you can have a chlamydia infection and not even know it! If symptoms do occur, they usually show up in 1 to 3 weeks after infection.
For women, symptoms can include:
- abnormal vaginal discharge
- burning sensation when urinating
- lower abdominal pain
- low back pain
- pain during sex
- bleeding between menstrual periods
For men, symptoms can include:
- a discharge from the penis
- burning sensation when urinating
- burning or itching sensation around the opening of the penis
Individuals who have anal sex may get infected in the rectum, which can cause rectal pain, discharge, and bleeding.
Even though symptoms are usually mild or absent, untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and even infertility (cannot have children). That’s why it’s so important to get an STD test at least once a year and to get appropriate treatment and follow up from your doctor or local Health Department.
Chlamydia is the most common STD in the U.S. The CDC estimates that millions of people between the ages of 14-39 have chlamydia - and as much as 75% of infected women and 50% of infected men have no signs or symptoms.
Because the cervix (opening to uterus) of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured and is probably more susceptible to infection, they are at particularly high risk, if sexually active.
If untreated, chlamydia infections can lead to serious reproductive and other health problems with long-term consequences.
In women, an untreated chlamydia infection can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This happens to as many as 40% of women who go untreated. The damage can lead to long-term pelvic pain, infertility (cannot have children), and dangerous ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). Additionally, women who are infected with chlamydia may be up to 5 times more likely to become infected with HIV.
Complications among men are rare, but untreated chlamydia is still dangerous. Sometimes, an infection can spread to the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm from the testis) and cause pain, fever, and even sterility (cannot have children).
Chlamydia is most often easily treated and cured with a simple prescription for antibiotics. To avoid re-infection, any and all sex partners need to get an STD test and treatment. If you have chlamydia, you should abstain from any kind of sex or sexual activity until you and your sex partner(s) have completed treatment.
Women whose sex partners have not been treated are at greater risk for re-infection of chlamydia. Multiple infections increase a woman's risk of serious health complications. Women should consider getting another STD test 3 to 4 months after treatment, especially if they do not know whether their sex partner received treatment.
The surest way to avoid chlamydia, or any STD, is to either abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term relationship with a single partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
For sexually active men and women condoms or dental dams, when used consistently and correctly, help to significantly reduce the risk of getting chlamydia and other STD infections.
Any signs or symptoms, such as burning during urination, an unusual sore, discharge with odor, or bleeding between menstrual cycles, could mean a chlamydia infection. If you have any of these symptoms, you should stop having sex and see a doctor immediately.
If you have or think you may have chlamydia, you should notify all recent sex partners (sex partners within the last few months) so they can get tested and treated as well. You should not have sex until you, and all partners, are tested and treated, if necessary.
Your local or State Health Department likely offers free resources and help for chlamydia infections. Your city may even host a free STD clinic. You may also wish to contact the CDC or the American Social Health Association (ASHA):
CDC-INFO Contact Center
American Social Health Association (ASHA)
You can also find more information about chlamydia, other STDs, and STD testing via the following links:
The CDC | http://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia
The Mayo Clinic | http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chlamydia/DS00173
Medline Plus (National Institutes of Health) | http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/chlamydiainfections.html