What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Chlamydia can infect:
- The penis, specifically the urethra
- Fallopian tubes
How common is chlamydia?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,808,703 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2019 (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. Adolescents and young adults (ages 15 to 24) are at higher risk of getting chlamydia, since the rates of infection are highest in this age group.
Who is most likely to get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is most common among:
- People under age 25
- People who have more than one sexual contact (or partner)
- People whose sexual contact(s) have more than one sexual contact
- People who do not use condoms
- People with a history of STIs
Talk to your health care provider if you think you might be at risk for chlamydia.
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. If a pregnant person has chlamydia they can pass chlamydia to their baby during delivery. 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?
The majority of people who have chlamydia do not have symptoms. Only about 10% of people with a penis and 5-30% of people with a vagina with chlamydia will have symptoms. If symptoms happen, they usually start anywhere from 1-3 weeks after becoming infected. People without symptoms can still have complications from the infection and pass it to sexual contacts.
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)
- Vaginal discharge
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
It’s always a good idea to talk to your sexual partner about whether they’ve been diagnosed with an STI, including chlamydia.
Where can I get tested and treated for chlamydia?
You can be tested and treated for chlamydia at most places that provide healthcare, including private doctors’ offices, hospital clinics, STI clinics, family planning health centers, 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 have any new sexual contacts (or partners), or you have had chlamydia or other STIs before.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Health care providers most commonly diagnose chlamydia by testing a urine sample. Less commonly they may place a small swab in the end of the penis. The same sample can be used to test for gonorrhea, another STI. It is important to get tested in order to tell if you have chlamydia or gonorrhea. They have very similar symptoms, but each needs a different treatment. If you or your sexual contact(s) has a positive chlamydia test, you may need to have further testing to check for other possible STIs
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.
Your health care provider 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.
It’s important for your sexual contact(s) to be treated as well. This can help prevent you from re-infecting one another.
You should be re-tested for chlamydia in 3 months.
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 a person with female reproductive organs.
How can I prevent spreading chlamydia?
If you think you have chlamydia, the first thing you need to 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 a health care provider 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 let your sexual partner(s) know 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 it’s OK to have sex. Generally that means waiting at least 1 week after you were treated; this means one week after taking azithromycin or one week after completing the 7 days of doxycycline(14 days after starting doxycycline). You also have to wait until your partner(s) have been treated to avoid getting infected again. Make sure you use a condom or dental dam every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
How can I avoid getting chlamydia?
The best way to lower your risk of getting chlamydia is not to have sexual intercourse. If you decide to have sexual intercourse, make sure you use a condom or dental dam 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. Polyurethane condoms and female condoms also provide some protection against chlamydia.