Chlamydia

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  Bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis that are transmitted during sex cause it.  It is the most common STI in the United States.

How do people get it?

Anyone who is sexually active can get chlamydia.  You can get it by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.  It can also be passed from an infected mother to her child during vaginal childbirth.  Teenage girls are at the greatest risk.  The cervix (opening to the uterus) is not fully mature, making young women at high risk for infection.

How do I know if I have it?

Usually, chlamydia has no symptoms.  If symptoms do show up, it will be from 1 to 3 weeks after you are exposed.  You could have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning feeling when urinating, bleeding between menstrual periods, or abdominal pain.  Many people find out they have chlamydia only after their sex partner has told them or if they are tested for it.

The only sure way to know if you have chlamydia is to be tested for it.  See your doctor or local health department.  If you are sexually active, talk to your health care provider and ask if you should be tested.  The test is quick and simple.  It can be done with a pelvic exam or a urine test. All test results will be kept confidential and shared only with you.

How is chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics.  If you and your partner are both infected, you both need to be treated.  If you do not treat both of you, the infection will be passed back to you.

Does a past infection make me immune?

No.  You can be infected each time you are exposed to chlamydia – even if you just had a treatment.

What if it is not treated?

If chlamydia goes untreated, it can increase your chance of getting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  In a woman, it can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  PID can cause permanent damage that can prevent a woman from having a baby.  It can also cause scar tissue, ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside of the uterus), or chronic pelvic pain.

How can I keep from getting it?

Not having sex – including oral and anal sex – is the only sure way to prevent chlamydia infection.  Use a condom every time you have sex.

Limit your sexual partners and ask your partner to do the same.  Your risk of getting any sexually transmitted infection increases with the number of partners you and your partners have.

Get tested every year (especially if you are younger than age 25).  A simple urine test may be all that you need.  To learn more, talk to your doctor or to go the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.


Page Last Updated: 09/30/2016