- Caused by a bacterium called chlamydia trachomatis
- Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD in the United States
- 15-19 year olds have the highest rates, followed by 20-24 year olds
- At least 75% of women and 50% of men who are infected have no symptoms
- Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics
- Having chlamydia can increase your chances of getting HIV
How do you get it?
You can get chlamydia by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has chlamydia. It is passed through contact with semen, vaginal fluids or discharge. Most people with chlamydia do not know they have it, but they can still pass the disease. In women, chlamydia infects the cervix and can be found in vaginal fluids. In men, chlamydia infects the urethra (where urine and semen come out). Chlamydia can also infect the rectum. A pregnant woman with chlamydia can pass it to her newborn baby during childbirth.
Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms. If symptoms develop, they are often mild and may appear 1-3 weeks after infection. Symptoms may include burning or pain during urination; a white, cloudy, or watery discharge from the penis; or increased discharge from the vagina. Women may also have pain in the abdomen, fever, unusually heavy periods or bleeding between periods, or pain during sex.
If chlamydia is not treated, it can spread in the reproductive organs. In women, untreated chlamydia can cause scarring and inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries, a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain, and can increase the risk of a life threatening ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. In men, untreated chlamydia can lead to a painful infection of the testicles known as epididymitis, which can cause sterility. A newborn baby born to a mother with chlamydia may develop infections in the eyes or lungs.
To get tested for chlamydia, go to a doctor or a health clinic. For women, the cervix is swabbed during a pelvic exam. For men, the inside of the urethra is swabbed. Newer chlamydia tests, which require only a urine sample from the patient, are now available at many clinics.
Chlamydia can be treated and cured with certain antibiotics (taken orally). It takes one week for the medicine to completely cure chlamydia. Make sure both you and your sex partner(s) are cured before having sex again. Because different antibiotics cure different diseases, see a doctor before taking any medications. You should not attempt to diagnose yourself or take any medicine that was not prescribed to you. Do not share medications.
Latex condoms provide excellent protection against chlamydia. The female condom and polyurethane (plastic) condoms are equally effective. Sexually active persons under age 25 should be tested for chlamydia every six months to a year. Pregnant women should seek prenatal care early, to prevent passing chlamydia to the newborn.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.