STD Facts :: Chlamydia
WHAT IS IT?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. An estimated 2.8 million people are infected yearly nation-wide. It is the most commonly diagnosed STD in Minnesota.
WHY DO WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT?
Chlamydia that is not treated can spread to a woman's uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries and cause a serious infection called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This can cause severe illness, sometimes requiring hospitalization. PID can also cause scarring in the fallopian tubes that can lead to being unable to become pregnant. This scarring can also lead to an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the tubes). PID may cause lasting lower abdominal pain.
Untreated chlamydia in a man can cause chronic infections in the prostate, rectum, and other organ systems. It can also cause sterility.
HOW DO I GET IT?
Chlamydia is spread from person to person during unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Using a latex or polyurethane condom will help prevent transmission if used correctly, and used every time.
It is possible to have the Chlamydia infection for a long time and not know it. Pregnant women can pass the infection to their babies.
Communicate with your partners about current or previous risks for STDs, and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of chlamydia.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms. About 75% of infected women and about 50% of infected men have no symptoms. If a woman has symptoms, she may have pain during sex, bleeding after sex or between periods, or unusual vaginal discharge, and discomfort with urinating (peeing). A man may have discomfort while peeing or a discharge (a clear or cloudy, sticky fluid at the opening of the penis).
Chlamydia symptoms are similar to gonorrhea, but are often less noticable.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE IT?
Like gonorrhea, chlamydia is site-specific. So, depending on what you're into, if a penis is going in your mouth, vagina or butt, you can be infected in those places. If your penis is going inside someone's mouth, vagina or butt, you can be infected in your penis.
Unlike gonorrhea, good site-specific testing for the butt and the throat is not available, so clinicians need to rely on symptoms and sexual histories to identify a possible infection outside of the penis.
The only way to know for sure is to be tested at a clinic. Even if a person feels fine, they should get tested if they've had uprotected sex (most people don't have symptoms!). If symptoms are present, get tested immediately. If a person's partner has been diagnosed with chlamydia, you may be considered for presumptive treatment. If you aren't experiencing any symptoms, it's best to wait 10 days to 2 weeks after your last unprotected sexual encounter to get tested.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Chlamydia is treated with a type of antibiotic that is taken by mouth. It is extremely important to finish all medicine that you are given, even if your symptoms are gone.
It is possible to be reinfected with chlamydia after treatment if a person is exposed again.
For more specific information about treatment, consult your medical provider. You can also read more in the CDC's 2006 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines.
WHAT ABOUT SEX PARTNERS?
It is best to wait two weeks after treatment, but at the very least wait at least one week after treatment before having any kind of sex (oral, anal, or vaginal) to avoid infecting others and avoid becoming re-infected.
It is important that anybody that you have had sex with in the last two months (or your last sex partner if more than two months ago) be notified about your infection.
Each of your sex partners will need to be tested and treated. Do not have sex with anyone you have had sex with that has not been tested and treated. Remember it is not possible to know how long a person has had chlamydia because it is possible to have the infection for a long time and not know it.
Click here for information on how to notify your partners through InSPOT.
WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms every time to help prevent transmission
- Use a new condom or latex glove for each new partner in group settings
- Limit the number of people you have sex with
- Get a full STD exam on a regular (at least annual) basis, depending on your risk
- Get your partners tested on a regular basis
For more information about Chlamydia, check out the CDC's Chlamydia Fact Sheet.
Questions about your risk? About testing? Email us or call 612.543.555.
Content updated: Jan 08