What 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?
Four million American women and men are diagnosed with chlamydia every year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1,307,893 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010 (in the United States). However, there are many more people with chlamydia who do not 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
- Have sex with partners who have other sexual partners
- Don't use condoms
- Have a history of STIs
- Are 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 body fluids. Chlamydia can be passed from a woman infected with chlamydia to her fetus during birth.
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 HCP's 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 STDs 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. However, just because you’ve had it once doesn’t mean you can’t be 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 decide which treatment is best for you and your partner(s) and then give you a prescription for an antibiotic that will kill the chlamydia bacteria. Remember to take ALL of the prescribed medicine, 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.
If I think I have chlamydia, what should I do?
- If you think you have chlamydia, the first thing you should do is stop having sexual intercourse and get tested and treated.
- Make sure you tell all current and past sexual partners that you have chlamydia, since you could have infected them. You may find this difficult to do, but it is very important to do so that your partners can get treated before more serious health problems occur. If you can't tell your partners, your health care provider can help you. Keep in mind: if your partner found out they had chlamydia, you would want them to tell you!
- Don't have sex until you have finished treatment and your health care provider says that you are cured.
- Make sure you use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
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. Make sure you tell all current and past sexual partners that you have chlamydia, since you could have infected them. 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. Don't have sex until you have finished treatment and your health care provider tells you that you are 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. 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?
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