The Facts on Chlamydia
Chlamydia is an infection 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 more
than one sex partner, including partners who have chlamydia.
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 STI prevention
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 have.
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 they are 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 lower back
Bleeding between menstrual periods
Symptoms that men with chlamydia may have:
Discharge from penis
Pain or burning when urinating
Watery or mucus discharge
Painful, swollen testicles
Men and women can also get infected with chlamydia in their rectum. This happens by
having anal sex. Or it can be spread from another infected site such as the vagina.
These infections often have no symptoms, but they can cause:
Possible complications from chlamydia
Chlamydia in women can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes if not treated.
It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Possible complications from PID include:
Chlamydia during pregnancy can affect the baby. These are some possible effects:
Men who have untreated chlamydia can get:
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, or discharge, and can lead to abscesses and damage to tissue (fistulas).
All people with chlamydia are also at greater risk of getting HIV if they are exposed
to someone with the virus.
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.
Chlamydia can now be easily tested for with a urine sample, vaginal swab, rectal swab,
or throat swab. Many women now have chlamydia tests done on the same sample used to
do a Pap test.
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. The most common treatment is either one dose
of azithromycin or a 7-day course of doxycycline. For LGV, you need 21 days of treatment.
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 or 21-day course
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 age 24 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 rectum.
Men who have sex with men should be screened regularly for chlamydia at all exposed
body sites. Women should also be screened at all exposed body sites.