What Is a Chlamydia Infection?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI)
caused by bacteria. People who have chlamydia often do not have outward
symptoms in the early stages. That might make you think you shouldn’t
worry. However, chlamydia can cause health problems in the later stages,
including preventing women from getting pregnant or even endangering their
If you have unprotected sex with someone whose STI status
not certain of, get tested for chlamydia and other STIs. You should get tested
every time you might have been exposed. The treatment for chlamydia is oral antibiotics
given either in multiple doses or just one dose. Waiting too long to treat it
can cause serious complications. Make sure you talk to a doctor as soon as you
think you might have been exposed.
Causes of Chlamydia Infection
Sex without a condom and unprotected oral sex are the main ways
a chlamydia infection can spread. You don’t have to have penetration to get it.
Touching genitals together may also transmit the bacteria. It can also be
contracted during anal sex.
Newborn babies can acquire chlamydia from their infected
mother during birth. Most prenatal testing includes a chlamydia test, but it
doesn’t hurt to double-check with your OB-GYN during your first prenatal
Someone can get a chlamydia infection in the eye through
oral or genital contact with the eyes, but this isn’t common.
Risk Factors of Chlamydia Infection
Men and women can get the infection, but women are more likely to be
diagnosed. Statistically, you’re more likely to get an STI if you have sex
with more than one person. Infection rates are highest
women partly because their immature cervical cells are vulnerable to
infection, but older age isn’t a protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends that all sexually active women age 25 and younger get screened for
chlamydia every year, as well as older women with risk factors like multiple or
Other risk factors include having
an STI in the past or currently having an infection because that could lower
your resistance. Being raped puts you at risk for chlamydia. If you are
forced into any sexual activity, including oral sex, you should get tested.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Chlamydia
Many people don’t notice the symptoms of chlamydia. If
symptoms do appear, it’s usually one to three weeks after you
have been infected. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- burning sensation
- discharge from the penis or
vagina (yellow or green)
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain in the testicles
- painful sexual
intercourse in women (dyspareunia)
In some women, the infection can spread to the fallopian
tubes, which may cause a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID is a medical emergency. The symptoms of PID are fever, severe pelvic pain,
nausea, and abnormal bleeding between periods.
It’s also possible to get a chlamydia
infection in the anus. In this case, the main symptoms are often discharge,
pain, and bleeding from this area.
If you have oral sex with someone who has the infection, you
may get it in your throat. You may notice a sore throat, a cough, or fever, but
possible to carry the bacteria in your throat and not know it.
When you see a doctor about chlamydia, you will likely be
asked about your symptoms. If you don’t have any, your doctor may ask why you
think you might have the infection. In this case, it’s
important to talk about how you think you were exposed.
The most effective diagnostic test for chlamydia is to swab the vagina in women
and to test the urine in men. If there is a chance the infection is in your
anus or throat, these areas may be swabbed as well.
The good news is that chlamydia is easy to treat. Since it’s
bacterial in nature, it’s treated with antibiotics. Azithromycin is an
antibiotic usually prescribed in a single, large dose, but the dose may also be
spread out over 5 days. Doxycycline is an antibiotic that must be
taken twice per day for about one week.
Your doctor may prescribe other antibiotics. No matter which
antibiotic you are given, you will need to follow the dosage instructions
carefully to make sure the infection clears up fully. This can take up to two
weeks, even with the single-dose medicines. Don’t have sex during the
treatment time. Unfortunately, you can get chlamydia again if you’re
exposed, even if you’ve had it and it was treated.
If you see the doctor soon after you suspect you’ve
contracted chlamydia, you will likely be able to clear up the infection with no
lasting problems. You may experience serious medical issues if you wait too
long to treat it.
Some women develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an
infection that can damage the uterus, cervix, and ovaries. PID is a painful
disease that often requires hospital treatment.
Women can also become infertile if chlamydia is left
untreated because the fallopian tubes may become scarred. Pregnant women with
the infection can pass the bacteria to their babies during birth, which can
cause eye infections and pneumonia in newborns.
Men can also experience complications when chlamydia is left
untreated. For example, the epididymis, the tube that holds the testicles in
place, may become inflamed, causing pain. This is known as epididymitis. The
infection can also spread to the prostate gland, causing a fever, painful
intercourse, and discomfort in the lower back.
These are just some of the most common complications of
untreated chlamydia, which is why it’s important to get medical attention
right away. Most people who get treatment quickly have no long-term medical
How to Prevent Chlamydia
The surest way for a sexually active person to avoid
contracting chlamydia is to have sex with a condom unless you are absolutely
certain your partner isn’t carrying the infection. You should either avoid
having oral sex or use protection during oral sex until you know the other
person doesn’t have chlamydia. Use protection with each new partner and get
tested for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases between each new