Chlamydia

Young women's version of this guide
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male symbolWhat is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the USA. In men the chlamydia bacteria can infect the penis (urethra), anus, or eye. In women, the bacteria can infect the female reproductive organs (vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes), anus, urethra, and eye.

How common is chlamydia?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,422,976 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2012 (in the United States). However, there are many more people with chlamydia who don’t know they have it because they’ve never had symptoms.

Who is most likely to get chlamydia?

Chlamydia is common among:

  • People who have more than one sexual partner
  • People whose sexual partners have more than one partner
  • People who don’t use condoms
  • People with a history of STIs
  • People under age 25

How is chlamydia spread?

Chlamydia is spread from person-to-person during unprotected sex. It can be passed through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can also be passed to the eye by a hand or other body part moistened with infected secretions. Chlamydia can be passed from a woman infected with chlamydia to her baby. Chlamydia cannot be spread by kissing, toilet seats, bed linens, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, silverware, or sharing clothes.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Around 90% percent of women and 70% of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. If they do have symptoms, the symptoms usually start anywhere from 1-3 weeks after becoming infected.

Symptoms of chlamydia can include:

  • A clear or milky discharge from the penis
  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • The need to urinate more than usual
  • Swollen or painful testicles
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, and/or mucus discharge of the rectum (for chlamydia in the anus)
  • Redness, itching, and/or discharges of the eyes (for chlamydia in the eyes)

These symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of gonorrhea, another sexually transmitted infection.

Where can I get tested and treated for chlamydia?

You can be tested and treated for chlamydia at family planning health centers, private doctors’ offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics, and health departments. If you are less than 25 years old and have ever had sexual intercourse, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for chlamydia at least once a year and more often if you change sex partners or have had chlamydia or other STIs before.

How is chlamydia diagnosed?

Your health care provider can diagnose chlamydia by taking a urine sample or by placing a small swab in the end of the penis. It’s important to get a test in order to tell if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia. They have very similar symptoms, but each needs a different treatment. If the test comes back positive for chlamydia (for either you or your partner(s) you may need to have further tests done to check for other possible infections.

Is there a cure for chlamydia?

Yes. Chlamydia is easy to treat and cure, but remember that just because you’ve had it once doesn’t mean you can’t get infected again. It’s important that you get treated early so that more serious health problems don’t occur. Both sexual partners must get treated at the same time so you don’t re-infect each other. Your health care provider will will either give you a single dose of medicine (azithromycin) to take in the office before you leave or a prescription to fill (doxycycline) that you will need to take 2 times a day, for 7 days. Your health care provider will decide which medicine is right for you. Remember to take ALL of the medicine as prescribed, even if the symptoms go away. This is because the infection can still be in your body.

Is chlamydia dangerous?

If chlamydia isn’t treated, it can cause an infection of the tube that connects the testicles to the urethra of the penis (this is called epididymitis). It can also lead to serious complications in women.

How can I prevent spreading chlamydia?

If you think you have chlamydia, the first thing you should do is stop having sexual intercourse and get tested and treated. Ask your health care provider if you can get a prescription for your partner (this is called expedited partner therapy or EPT), or find out if your partner can be seen by your health care provider or theirs to get treated. You’ll need to let all current and past sexual partners know that you have chlamydia (anyone that you have had vaginal, anal or oral sex with in the past 60 days – or the most recent sexual partners). You may find this hard to do, but it’s very important so that those infected can get treated before more serious health problems occur.

You can do this in a couple of different ways:

  • You can tell them face to face, over the phone or via a text message.
  • You can use an anonymous notification application, such as: an email from a reliable website such as bedsider.org. This website will send a confidential email card to your partner(s) for free. Another website, inspot.org will send an anonymous text to your partner(s).

Research has shown that notifying your partner(s) in real time or face to face is the best way to get your partner treated.

Remember: Don’t have sex until you have finished treatment and your health care provider tells you that you’re cured. Make sure you use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

How can I avoid getting chlamydia?

The best way to lower your risk of getting chlamydia is not to have sexual intercourse. However, if you decide to have sexual intercourse, make sure you use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What types of birth control protect against chlamydia?

The only types of birth control that protect against chlamydia are male latex and polyurethane condoms and female condoms. Latex condoms are the best protection against chlamydia.

If you’re concerned about chlamydia, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: It burns when I pee. Do I have an STI?