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What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and can infect both men and women. Chlamydia can cause serious permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system, making it difficult for her to get pregnant.

You are at a higher risk of getting chlamydia if you do not consistently use a condom when having sex.

What Causes Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is caused by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has the infection. It can spread from a male or a female partner. A woman can also pass chlamydia to her baby during childbirth. Receiving treatment for chlamydia in the past does not guarantee prevention from re-infection.

What are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms and do not even know they have it.

If you do have symptoms, you may experience:

  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Abnormal discharge from the penis
  • In men, swelling, and pain in one or both the testicles
  • In women, pain in the abdomen, bleeding between periods and after sex

People with chlamydia who have no symptoms can still have future health problems such as not being able to get pregnant and they can pass the disease on to others. Getting tested is the only way to know if you or a partner has chlamydia.

How is Chlamydia Diagnosed?

Chlamydia is diagnosed with a swab test or urine test. For women, your health care provider might ask for a urine sample or use a cotton swab to take a sample from your vagina. For men, your health care provider may ask for a urine sample.

What are the Treatments for Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is usually treated with antibiotics. You may be given a one-time dose of the antibiotic, or a longer course of medicine to take for a week. However, antibiotics cannot fix any permanent damage done to your body that the disease has caused such as scarring of your reproductive organs.

You need to take a few precautions while you are on antibiotics such as avoid having sex until your infection has cleared up to help in preventing the spread of the disease to your partner. For a one-time dose of antibiotics, you need to wait for a week after the medicine to have sex again. If you took medicine every day for a week, you should wait for completing the course before having sex again.

Getting a repeat infection is very common, so you need to get tested again about three months after the treatment.

How is Chlamydia Prevented?

You can prevent or lower your risk of getting chlamydia with the following steps:

  • Use condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • During oral sex, cover the penis with a condom
  • Use latex, or a piece of thin or soft plastic called a dam to cover the female genitals during oral sex
  • Do not share sex toys
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections
  • Have sex with only one partner
  • Stay away from drugs or alcohol as it increases risky behavior, putting you at risk of sexual assault or possible exposure to sexually transmitted infection.