Chlamydia

Chlamydia (cluh-MIH-dee-uh) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), caused by a bacteria that is passed during sex. Chlamydia spreads from person to person by vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It is the most common bacterial STD in the United States. Millions of Americans are infected with Chlamydia each year.

Symptoms

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. They can carry and pass it to their sex partners without knowing it. If you do get symptoms, they usually show up 7 to 20 days after having sex with an infected person.

Women:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Mild pain in the pelvic area
  • Burning/pain when urinating (passing water)

Men:

  • Watery discharge (drip) from the penis
  • Burning/pain when urinating (passing water)
  • Mild discomfort or tingling feeling in the penis

Complications

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause the following complications:

Complications in women:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — a serious problem that damages the reproductive organs.
  • Ectopic pregnancy — sometimes called a tubal pregnancy, this occurs when the fertilized egg grows in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This may be a medical emergency requiring surgery or special medication.
  • Infertility — women may be unable to get pregnant.

A pregnant woman with chlamydia can pass it to her baby during birth. Testing can be done durng prenatal care. Serious problems for newborn babies can include:

  • Being born too early (premature)
  • Low birth weight
  • Eye infections
  • Pneumonia

Complications in men:

  • The infection can also spread to the testicles causing an inflammation called epididymitis (eh-pih-did-ih-MY-tiss). This painful condition can result in sterility.

Testing

Your doctor or nurse can test you for chlamydia by taking a small sample of cells from the cervix during a pelvic exam or from the penis.

Treatment

An antibiotic is used to treat chlamydia. Be sure to finish all of the medicine, even if the symptoms go away. If you stop taking your medicine early, the infection may not go away and you could keep spreading it.

Your sexual partner also must be treated for chlamydia. Do not have sex until both of you have finished your medicine.

After treatment, you can be reinfected each time you are exposed to another STD. It is important to be retested for chlamydia about 3 months after treatment.

If you have sex, you may be at risk for having an STD. It is possible to have more than one STD at the same time. See your provider to be tested.

Reduce your risks

  • Don’t have sex. Not having sex is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
  • Limit your sexual partners. The best protection is to have sex with only one person who is free of infection and who does not have sex with other people.
  • Know your partner. Talk with your partner before you have sex. You should know your partner’s past sexual history. Has your partner ever had an STD? How many sexual partners has he or she had?
  •  Look before you have sex. Do not be afraid to look before you have sex. If you see any sores, a rash, or discharge, talk to your partner about it. But remember, you can’t always tell by looking.
  • Always use a condom. Protect yourself by using latex condoms with spermicide every time you have sex. Carry them with you and be sure to use them. Using condoms the right way is very, very important. For protection against pregnancy, use a spermicidal foam, jelly, or cream along with a condom.
  • Get regular STD checkups. Get a regular checkup for STDs every six months if:
      • If you have sex with more than one partner
      • You have sex with a new partner
      • Your partner has sex with others

Other resources for STD information

Use condoms the right way

Except for not having sex (abstinence), latex condoms give the best protection from many sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Condoms are only helpful if used the right way.

Note: If you or your partner has an allergy to latex, talk to your doctor.

Important steps for using condoms correctly:

  1. Use a latex condom every time you have sex.
  2. When using a lubricant, do not use anything oil-based like Vaseline. Use only water-based lubricants like K-Y Jelly.
  3. Always put the condom on before the penis touches or enters the vagina.
  4. After ejaculation the man should withdraw from the vagina while the penis is still erect. While taking the penis out of the vagina, hold onto the rim of the condom. This will keep it from slipping off.
  5. Pull the condom and the penis out of the vagina together.

Revised September 2011

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