Chlamydia

General Info

If you think you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) or that you have been exposed to an STI, such as Chlamydia, STOP having sex immediately until you are tested and/or treated by a medical provider.

For more information about Sexually Transmitted Infections, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

What is it?

  • Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States.
  • It is an infection caused by a bacterium ("germ") called Chlamydia trachomatis.
  • Chlamydia usually infects the reproductive and urinary systems.
  • It can also grow in the throat, eyes, and anus (rectum).
  • It can lead to serious problems, especially in women, if left untreated.

How do I get it?

How is Chlamydia spread?
  • Chlamydia is passed from an infected person to an unifected person during sex.
  • Sex is putting the penis into the vagina, rectum, or mouth; and/or putting the mouth on the penis, vagina, or rectum.
  • Ejaculation (cum) does not have to occur for Chlamydia to be transmitted.
  • Chlamydia can be spread from mother to baby during delivery.
  • Infection is more common in people who have multiple sexual partners.
  • People who had Chlamydia and received antibiotic treatment can get infected again if they have sexual contact with a person infected with Chlamydia.
  • Chlamydia infects the reproductive organs.
  • Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics.
If I have Chlamydia and I'm pregnant, can I spread it to my baby?
  • Yes, it is possible to spread the infection to your baby during delivery.
  • Infants infected with Chlamydia may develop conjunctivitis (infection of the membrane lining the eyelids) and/or pneumonia.
  • Chlamydial infection in infants can be treated with antibiotics.
  • See your healthcare provider about testing and treatment of Chlamydia during pregnancy.

How common is it?

  • Chlamydia is a very common infectious disease, especially among young people.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 2-3 million new cases of Chlamydia every year. Only about half of these infections are reported to CDC.
  • In 2011, 1.4 million chlamydial infections were actually reported to the CDC in the U.S.
  • Sexually active young people are at high risk of acquiring Chlamydia for a combination of behavioral and biological reasons.
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) are also at risk for chlamydial infection since Chlamydia can be transmitted by oral and/or anal sex.

What happens if I get it?

Severe reproductive health problems can develop if you don't get treated for Chlamydia:

  • Women can develop a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID.
  • PID is a serious problem and can cause severe pelvic or abdominal pain in women. If untreated, long-term pain lasting months or years can occur.
  • Chlamydia can make a woman unable to have children because of the damage it can cause to her reproductive tract.
  • It can also cause an ectopic (“tubal") pregnancy or a baby growing outside the uterus, and can cause pre-term (premature) delivery.
  • Complications are rare in men. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testis, causing pain and fever.
  • Untreated Chlamydia may increase a person’s chances of acquiring or transmitting HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of a Chlamydia infection can occur 5 - 30 days after infection, although most people do not have any symptoms.

Women:
  • Vaginal pain or itching.
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods.
  • Pain during sex.

Women with Chlamydia are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, whether or not they have symptoms.

Men:
  • Penile pain or itching.
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating.
  • Mucus discharge from the penis.
  • Painful or swollen testicles.
  • Pain during sex.

Men and Women:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Rectal pain, discharge, or blood in the stool (if you are infected in the anus).
How can I tell if I have Chlamydia?
  • Up to 90% of women and 70% of men never show any symptoms.
  • Chances are you won't be able to tell if you have Chlamydia unless you get tested.
  • That's why it's important to get your free IWTK test kit or have your healthcare provider do a test.

Diagnosis and Treatment

How Chlamydia diagnosed?
  • Several laboratory tests are available to diagnose Chlamydia.
  • A healthcare provider can collect a sample for testing from the parts of the body likely to be infected (cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat) and send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
  • Chlamydia that is present in the cervix in women or urethra in men can also be diagnosed in a laboratory by testing a urine sample.
  • Vaginal samples also can be used with newer molecular tests.
How does IWTK diagnose Chlamydia?
  • Women: you collect a vaginal and/or rectal swab in the comfort of your own home.
  • Men: you collect a penile (surface swabbing) and/or rectal swab in the comfort of your own home.
  • Men and women mail their self-collected swab(s) back to our laboratory, and we test them using a highly sensitive molecular test which gives the most accurate result possible.
Is Chlamydia treatable?
  • YES! Chlamydia is treatable.
  • Several prescription antibiotics (medicines) can successfully cure Chlamydia in adolescents and adults.
  • It is important to take all of the medication as prescribed to cure Chlamydia, even if you are feeling better. ALL antibiotics must be taken to be effective.
  • If your symptoms continue even after receiving treatment, you should return to a doctor to be tested again.

Prevention

Yes.
Follow these guidelines:

  • Abstain from sexual intercourse; or use a latex condom properly, every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral), with every partner.
  • Limit your sexual partners. The more sex partners you have, the greater your risk of encountering someone who has this or other STIs.
  • If you are infected, your sexual partner(s) should be notified so they can be tested and treated. This will prevent you from getting reinfected.
  • Doctors recommend testing once a year for Chlamydia for all sexually active women age 25 years and younger.
  • Yearly testing is also recommended for older women with a new sex partner or with multiple sex partners.
  • All pregnant women should have a screening test for Chlamydia.
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) should be tested for chlamydia each year.
  • MSM who have multiple and/or anonymous sex partners should be tested more frequently.
  • Getting treated if you have Chlamydia will prevent serious consequences.
  • Women and men with Chlamydia should be retested about three months after treatment of an infection.
  • Always see a healthcare provider if you have any signs or symptoms of an STI.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent Chlamydia.
Once I have had Chlamydia, am I immune?

No. You can get infected with Chlamydia again.