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Sexual Conditions Health Center

Chlamydia - Topic Overview

Chlamydia (say "kluh-MID-ee-uh") is an infection spread through sexual contact. This infection infects the urethra in men. In women, it infects the urethra and the cervix and can spread to the reproductive organscamera.gif. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Chlamydia does not cause problems if you treat it right away. But left untreated, it can lead to serious problems, especially for women:

  • If it spreads, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This serious infection can make it hard or impossible for a woman to get pregnant.
  • Pregnant women who have chlamydia often pass it to their babies at birth. If the infection gets in a baby's eyes, it can cause blindness. They can also have other problems, like pneumonia. Pneumonia can be deadly in a newborn.
  • Having chlamydia makes a person more likely to get HIV from someone who is infected with HIV. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

A certain kind of bacteria causes chlamydia. It can spread from one partner to another through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. A pregnant woman can pass the infection to her newborn during delivery.

Most people don't have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include pain when you urinate, cloudy urine, or an abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina.

You can spread chlamydia even if you do not have symptoms. You are contagious until you have been treated.

Your doctor will ask you questions about your past health and your sexual history, such as how many partners you have. You may also have a physical exam to look for signs of infection.

Several types of tests can be used to diagnose chlamydia. Most use a sample of urine or a swab from the cervix, vagina, or urethra.

Since chlamydia can cause serious problems but may not cause symptoms, it's a good idea to get tested once a year if you are sexually active and in your mid-20s or younger. Local health departments and family planning clinics usually offer low-cost testing.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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