What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria, called Chlamydia trachomatis. Each year 3 to 4 million people contract it. The infection is acquired mainly through sexual intercourse. In addition to transmission through vaginal intercourse, it is possible to contract Chlamydia through anal intercourse. Chlamydia is only rarely found in the throat after oral-genital contact with an infected partner.
What are the symptoms of Chlamydia and when do they appear?
Most Chlamydia infections in women and up to 40% of cases in men are asymptomatic (no symptoms). When symptoms are present, they usually appear within 1-3 weeks of exposure and may be very mild. Men can have pain or burning during urination, discharge from the penis, or swelling or pain in the testicles. Women can experience abnormal vaginal discharge, burning with urination, lower abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods or after intercourse. Both men and women can have rectal irritation or discharge.
How is Chlamydia diagnosed?
The majority of people with Chlamydia have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, so it is important to be screened for Chlamydia if you are sexually active or if you have a new sexual partner. The CDC recommends all sexually active women under the age of 26 be screened yearly. Women age 26 and older with risk factors (a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner) should also be screened annually.
Testing includes a swab test of cervical secretions in a female or urine from a male or a female. A Pap smear (test for cervical cancer) does NOT screen for Chlamydia.
What are the problems if Chlamydia is not treated?
If left untreated, Chlamydia infections have the potential to cause serious damage. The complications for women include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries), chronic pelvic pain, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and infertility. The bacteria can be passed to newborn infants of infected mothers causing pneumonia and eye infection. In men, Chlamydia can damage the epididymis (adjacent to the testicles) and may lead to infertility and chronic pain. Infected individuals are at increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to that virus.
How is Chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline is usually prescribed.
It is important that all sexual partners be tested and treated as well.
It is advisable to be retested in 3-4 months after treatment to ensure that re-infection hasn’t occurred.
How can Chlamydia be prevented?
If you are sexually active, the safest strategy is to stay in a long term, mutually monogamous relationship.
Condoms, used correctly and consistently, can greatly reduce the risk of Chlamydia transmission.
BE SAFE! GET TESTED!
Confidential testing and treatment are available at the IU Health Center. Call 855-7688 for an appointment with a medical provider.
- IU Health Center Medical Appointments: 855-7688
- Health & Wellness Education: 855-7338 Further Information about Chlamydia and other STI: