What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (StI) caused by chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium, which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Because symptoms of chlamydia are often mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur “silently” before a woman ever recognizes a problem.

How Do People Get It?

Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. chlamydia can also be passed from an infected mother to her newborn during vaginal childbirth.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Use latex condoms correctly every time you have sex.

Persons who choose to engage in sexual behaviors that can place them at risk for STIs should use latex condoms every time they have sex. A condom put on the penis before starting sex and worn until the penis is withdrawn can help protect both the male and the female partner from chlamydia. When a male condom cannot be used appropriately, sex partners should consider using a female condom.

What are the Symptoms?

Chlamydia is known as a “silent” infection because three quarters of infected women and half of infected men have no symptoms. The infection is frequently not diagnosed or treated until complications develop. In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix (opening to the uterus) and the urethra (urine canal). Women with symptoms might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. When the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, lower back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, and bleeding between menstrual periods. If the infection spreads past the cervix into the upper reproductive system, it can cause infertility or chronic pelvis pain. This is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Men with signs or symptoms might have a discharge from the penis and a burning sensation when urinating. Men might also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis or pain and swelling in the testicles, or both.

How is It Treated?

Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline (twice daily) are the most commonly used treatments. All sex partners must also be treated. Men and women should abstain from sex for 7 days after treatment to avoid spreading the infection.