Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. This infection is easily spread because it often causes no symptoms and may be unknowingly passed to sexual partners. In fact, about 75% of infections in women and 50% in men are without symptoms.
How Do I Know if I Have Chlamydia?
It is not easy to tell if you are infected with chlamydia since symptoms are not always apparent. But when they do occur, they are usually noticeable within one to three weeks of contact and can include the following:
Chlamydia symptoms in women
- Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odor
- Bleeding between periods
- Painful periods
- Abdominal pain with fever
- Pain when having sex
- Itching or burning in or around the vagina
- Pain when urinating
Chlamydia symptoms in men
- Small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
- Painful urination
- Burning and itching around the opening of the penis
- Pain and swelling around the testicles
How Is Chlamydia Diagnosed?
There are a few different tests your doctor can use to diagnose chlamydia. He or she will probably use a swab to take a sample from the urethra in men or from the cervix in women and then send the specimen to a laboratory to be analyzed. There are also other tests which check a urine sample for the presence of the bacteria.
How Is Chlamydia Treated?
If you have chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics, usually azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline. Your doctor will also recommend your partner(s) be treated to prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease.
With treatment, the infection should clear up in about a week or two. It is important to finish all of your antibiotics even if you feel better.
Women with severe chlamydia infection may require hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics (medicine given through a vein), and pain medicine.
After taking antibiotics, people should be re-tested after three months to be sure the infection is cured. This is particularly important if you are unsure that your partner(s) obtained treatment. But testing should still take place even if your partner has been treated. Do not have sex until you are sure both you and your partner no longer have the disease.
What Happens If I Don't Get My ChalmydiaTreated?
If you do not get treated for chlamydia, you run the risk of several health problems.
- For women. If left untreated, chlamydia infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to damage of the fallopian tubes (the tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus) or even cause infertility (the inability to have children). Untreated chlamydia infection could also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg implants and develops outside the uterus.) Furthermore, chlamydia may cause premature births (giving birth too early) and the infection can be passed along from the mother to her child during childbirth, causing an eye infection, blindness, or pneumonia in the newborn.
- For men. Chlamydia can cause a condition called nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) -- an infection of the urethra (the tube by which men and women pass urine), epididymitis -- an infection of the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm away from the testes), or proctitis -- an inflammation of the rectum.
How Can I Prevent a Chlamydia Infection?
To reduce your risk of a chlamydia infection:
- Use condoms correctly every time you have sex.
- Limit the number of sex partners, and do not go back and forth between partners.
- Practice sexual abstinence, or limit sexual contact to one uninfected partner.
- If you think you are infected, avoid sexual contact and see a doctor.
Any genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination or an unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to consult a doctor immediately. If you are told you have chlamydia or any other sexually transmitted disease and receive treatment, you should notify all of your recent sex partners so that they can see a doctor and be treated.
Because chlamydia often occurs without symptoms, people who are infected may unknowingly infect their sex partners. Many doctors recommend that all persons who have more than one sex partner should be tested for chlamydia regularly, even in the absence of symptoms.