The Facts on Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a disease that you can
get through sexual contact. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. The CDC
says chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by
bacteria. But many cases may be missed. That's because most people don't know they have it.
The infection may have few symptoms in the early stages.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who has sex is at risk for
chlamydia. Young adults are at very high risk. They may be less likely to use condoms
during sex. They may be more likely to have many sex partners.
Young women also may have cervical
ectopy. Cervical ectopy means that the layer of cells lining the cervical canal extends
to the outer layer of the cervix. This raises their risk for chlamydia. Some young
adults may also not have access to STD prevention care.
Can chlamydia be prevented?
Practicing safe sex may help
prevent chlamydia. Men and women can spread this disease by having unprotected sex. This
includes vaginal, oral, or anal sex. You can lower your risk by not having sex. Or if
you do have sex, you can lower your risk by limiting the number of sex partners you
You can also lower your risk
by using condoms and by using a dental dam during oral sex. Don't have sex with an
infected person until he or she is done with treatment. If you have chlamydia, all your
sex partners from the last 60 days should be tested. They should be treated for the
disease if they test positive for it. Women are often infected again if their sex
partners aren’t treated.
Symptoms of chlamydia
Most people with chlamydia have no
symptoms. An early sign of the disease in women is a mucous-like vaginal discharge. But
women may not notice this because many women have different amounts of discharge from
day to day. These are other symptoms that women may have:
Pain or burning when urinating
Abnormal vaginal discharge
Pain in the lower belly or
Bleeding between menstrual periods
Men with chlamydia may have
discharge from the penis. They may also urinate often and have burning when they
urinate. They may also have painful, swollen testicles.
Complications from chlamydia
Chlamydia can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes if not treated. It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Complications from PID are:
Chlamydia during pregnancy can affect the baby. These are some possible effects:
People with chlamydia are also at
greater risk of getting HIV if they are exposed to someone with the virus.
Men who have untreated
chlamydia can get infections of the genital tract and prostate. Other problems of the
disease in men are reactive arthritis and conjunctivitis. For men having sex with men
(or women who have anal sex), chlamydia can cause an infection of the rectal area.
Certain strains of chlamydia can cause lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV). This health
problem most often affects the rectal area. It causes bleeding, pain, abscesses, or
damage to tissue (fistulas).
Diagnosis and treatment
If you are diagnosed with
chlamydia, you can quickly cure the disease with treatment. But most people with it have
mild symptoms or none at all. That is why many people don’t know they have
Chlamydia can now be easily tested
for with a urine sample, vaginal swab, or rectal swab. Many women now have chlamydia
tests done on the same sample used to do a Pap test.
Healthcare providers treat
chlamydia with antibiotics. The most common treatment is either a 7-day course of
doxycycline or 1 dose of azithromycin.
All sex partners should be checked,
tested, and treated. If you have chlamydia, don't have sex until you and your sex
partners are done with treatment. If not, you may get infected again. Wait 1 week after
taking the 1-dose azithromycin. You can start having sex again the day after finishing
treatment with the 7-day course of doxycycline.
The LGV type of chlamydia is harder to treat. You'll need 3 weeks of
More screening is needed
Widespread screening is a good way
to diagnose and treat chlamydia. The CDC and the Office of Population Affairs have
started many screening programs. The CDC recommends screening every year for all
sexually active women ages 25 and under. It also recommends yearly screenings for older
women who have one or more risk factors. Risk factors include having more than 1 sex
partner and not using a condom. Pregnant women should always be screened for chlamydia.
In women, all likely exposed body sites should be screened, such as the vagina and
Men who have sex with men should be screened regularly for chlamydia
at all exposed body sites.
Some healthcare providers will also screen the throat for chlamydia.
But the CDC does not recommend it. Any positive results need to be interpreted with