How Is Chlamydia Spread
You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia.
If your sex partner is male you can still get chlamydia even if he does not ejaculate .
If youve had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can still get infected again. This can happen if you have unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia.
Early Signs Among Women
- May vary in consistency, or color
When To Seek Medical Advice
If you have any symptoms of chlamydia, visit your GP, community contraceptive service or local genitourinary medicine clinic as soon as possible.
You should also get tested if you don’t have any symptoms but are concerned you could have a sexually transmitted infection .
If you’re a woman, sexually active and under 25 in England, it’s recommended that you have a chlamydia test once a year, and when you have sex with new or casual partners.
If you’re a man, sexually active and under 25 in England, it’s recommended that you have a chlamydia test once a year if you are not using condoms with new or casual partners.
Read more about chlamydia diagnosis.
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What To Think About
Some people who have chlamydia may also have gonorrhea. In that case, treatment includes antibiotics that kill both chlamydia and gonorrhea. For more information, see the topic Gonorrhea.
Reinfection can occur. Symptoms that continue after treatment are probably caused by another chlamydia infection rather than treatment failure. To prevent reinfection, sex partners need to be evaluated and treated.
Repeated chlamydia infections increase the risk for pelvic inflammatory disease . Even one infection can lead to PID without proper treatment. Make sure to take your antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Take the full course of medicine, even if you feel better in a couple of days.
Some doctors recommend retesting 3 to 12 months after treatment to reduce the risk of complications from reinfection.footnote 4
If you have chlamydia, your doctor will send a report to the state health department. Your personal information is kept confidential. The health department may contact you about telling your sex partner or partners that they may need treatment.
What Are The Potential Complications
If treated in time, chlamydia causes no lasting concerns. Untreated chlamydia can lead to complications as the infection spreads to other areas of the body.
Untreated chlamydia may cause sexually-acquired reactive arthritis, which includes skin, eye and joint problems. It is also associated with a higher chance of getting HIV.
In women, complications may include difficulty getting pregnant, ectopic or tubal pregnancy or pelvic inflammatory disease . See HealthLinkBC File #08c Pelvic Inflammatory Disease for more information.
In men, complications may include an infection in the testicles, which can lead to infertility.
Other Complications Of Untreated Chlamydia In All People
- Conjunctivitis, spread by touching the infected area and then touching the hand to the eye
- Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the rectum , if the chlamydia is from anal sex
- Varied symptoms, such as joint and eye inflammation, caused by bacterial infection
- Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV. This is caused by a type of chlamydia that is usually rare in the United States, but it is becoming more common in men who have sex with men. It causes open sores in the genital area, headache, fever, fatigue, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin. It also causes proctitis in people who get chlamydia through anal sex.
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What Happens If I Dont Get Treated
The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems.
If you are a woman, untreated chlamydia can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes . This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease . PID often has no symptoms, however some women may have abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if it doesnt cause symptoms initially, PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy .
Men rarely have health problems linked to chlamydia. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever. Rarely, chlamydia can prevent a man from being able to have children.
How Can I Prevent Chlamydia
It’s easier to prevent an STI like chlamydia than it is to treat it:
- Don’t have more than one sex partner at a time. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you. Every time you add a new sex partner, you are being exposed to all of the infections that all of their partners may have.
- Use a condom every time you have sex. Latex and polyurethane condoms keep out the viruses and bacteria that cause STIs.
- Be responsible. Don’t have sex if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STI.
- Wait to have sex with a new partner until both of you have been tested for STIs.
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How Long Does It Take To Show Up In People With Penises
Theres no significant difference in the amount of time it takes for chlamydia symptoms to show up for people with penises as compared to people with vulvas.
The only major difference in the time it takes for symptoms to show up among people of various sexes may be related to how often symptoms show up.
According to the Childrens National Health System, 90 percent of people with vulvas dont ever experience any physical symptoms, while 70 percent of people with penises never notice any symptoms.
This difference in who actually experiences symptoms between these two groups may have some effect on how long it takes for symptoms show up. But theres never been any definitive link between your sex and when your symptoms appear.
A Common Sexually Transmitted Disease
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex and can affect both men and women.
Chlamydia is very simple to treat and cure with a short course of antibiotics. It’s recommended to take the treatment as soon as you know you have the infection.
Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. Women who do have symptoms may notice an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating.
Symptoms in men can include a discharge from their penis, a burning sensation when urinating or pain and swelling in one or both testicles .
Men and women can also get infected with chlamydia in their rectum, either by having receptive anal sex, or through the infection spreading from another infected site . While these infections often cause no symptoms, they can cause rectal pain, discharge or bleeding.
If chlamydia is left untreated, it can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. The infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease . This happens in about 10 to 15 percent of women with untreated chlamydia. Pelvic inflammatory disease can result in serious complications .
In men, serious complications are rare.
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STD .
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Can You Have Chlamydia In The Mouth
Chlamydia is known to infect the oropharynx, a part of the throat that’s behind the mouth. So technically speaking, chlamydia can infect the throat instead of the mouth directly. However, chlamydia in women and men can be transmitted through the mouth of an infected partner during certain sexual activities like oral sex.
Regular Screening Prevents Later Problems
When young women and other women at high risk for chlamydia follow CDC guidelines and get yearly screening, they reduce their risk for the serious problems that the illness can cause. They are less likely to suffer infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and other serious health troubles than women who skip yearly testing.
Testing is easy. If it helps you remember, do it the week after your birthday, or tie it to some other annual event, like July 4th. That way, you can declare your independence from worry about STDs.
When To See A Doctor
If a person has symptoms of chlamydia after testing and treatment or thinks that they have come into contact with chlamydia again, they should see their doctor.
Females are less likely than males to have symptoms of chlamydia, so testing is especially important for them.
The recommend chlamydia testing every year for the following groups of people:
- sexually active females under the age of 25 years
- females over the age of 25 years who have new or multiple sexual partners
- anyone with a sexual partner who has an STI
- sexually active gay and bisexual males
Pregnant women should have a chlamydia test early on in their pregnancy.
Effects Of Chlamydia Treatment
After you have begun your course of chlamydia treatment, you should start to notice an improvement in your symptoms within a few days. Generally, most symptoms should resolve completely within 24 weeks. If any symptoms persist, such as pelvic pain or pain during sex, please return to the clinic as further treatment or investigations may be necessary.
If you are diagnosed with chlamydia you may need to inform anyone you have had sex with within the last six months as they may also be infected. They should be advised to attend a sexual health clinic for a chlamydia test and will usually be offered treatment on the day they attend. This advice is regardless of whether they have any symptoms or not, or whether or not you used a condom.
If you feel unable to inform previous sexual partners one of our Health Advisers will be able to notify them on your behalf without revealing your identity.
You should not have oral, anal or vaginal sex during your course of chlamydia treatment or for seven days after a single dose of chlamydia treatment and also until your current partner completes their treatment and until both you and your partners symptoms have abated. This is to avoid being re-infected and requiring further treatment.
How Chlamydia Is Diagnosed
There are a number of different, reliable tests for chlamydia. In addition to tests that a healthcare provider would use in a medical office or clinic, there are now some good test kits you can use at home. The tests rely on several different methods.
Some older tests involve obtaining some of the chlamydia bacteria and growing them in a culture. Today, healthcare providers prefer newer DNA tests, often called NAATs .
Some tests that work for both men and women use a urine sample. Others use secretions from the genitals or other infected areas of the body, such as the rectum. While the CDC recommends testing of genital secretions, screening a urine sample is less invasive and more practical for many primary-care physician offices.
Women under age 25 ought to be tested every year for chlamydia whether or not they have any symptoms. In women, tests often involve the insertion of a cotton swab into the vagina to obtain secretions.
Vaginal swab is the preferred method, says Dombrowski. You dont have to have a whole pelvic exam.
If you are pregnant, you should be screened for chlamydia during your first prenatal visit. If you are pregnant and younger than 25, or if you are pregnant and have a new sex partner or multiple partners, you should also be screened again in your third trimester. Its important to catch and treat chlamydia in a pregnant woman to prevent transmission to the baby. In newborns, the illness can cause serious harm or death.
How Do I Test For Chlamydia
You can get tested for chlamydia even if you dont have any symptoms.
Getting tested for chlamydia is easy and doesnt hurt. A healthcare professional will ask for a urine sample and/or take a swab from the area that might be infected. This is usually the lower part of the womb or the vagina for women, and the tip of the penis for men. If youve had anal or oral sex, you may have a swab taken from your anus or throat.
In some countries you can get a self-testing kit to do at home.
If you test positive for chlamydia, its important to tell any recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested, and treated if necessary. If you need advice about how to do this, speak to your healthcare professional. You should also test for other STIs.
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Know Your Sexual Health Status
If you have recently changed sexual partners, or have multiple sex partners, getting regularly tested for STIs will tell you if you have an infection. Some people can have an STI and not have any symptoms. Finding and treating an STI reduces the chances of passing infections on to your partner.
The more partners you have, the higher your chances of getting exposed to STIs.
What Other Problems Can Chlamydia Cause
In women, an untreated infection can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease . PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. This can lead to long-term pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have had chlamydia infections more than once are at higher risk of serious reproductive health complications.
Men often don’t have health problems from chlamydia. Sometimes it can infect the epididymis . This can cause pain, fever, and, rarely, infertility.
Both men and women can develop reactive arthritis because of a chlamydia infection. Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens as a “reaction” to an infection in the body.
Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. It may also make it more likely for your baby to be born too early.
Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV/AIDS.
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How To Help Partners Get Treatment
If you are not sure whether your sexual partner will seek treatment, ask your doctor for extra chlamydia medication . You can give it to them so they can be treated as soon as possible.
This is known as patient delivered partner therapy for chlamydia. Talk to your doctor to see if PDPT is right for you and your sexual partner.
Can Chlamydia Be Cured
Yes, chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection. When taken properly it will stop the infection and could decrease your chances of having complications later on. You should not share medication for chlamydia with anyone.
Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. You should be tested again about three months after you are treated, even if your sex partner was treated.
Does Chlamydia Treatment Have Side Effects
An antibiotic called Doxycycline is the most common medicine used to treat chlamydia. Like most medicines, it can cause mild side effects. The most common side effects of Doxycycline are nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, loss of appetite, mild diarrhea, skin rash or itching, change in skin color, vaginal itching, or discharge. These side effects should go away after you finish taking the medicine. Talk to your nurse or doctor about any medicines youre already taking and any medical issues you already have before taking Doxycycline.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Getting Chlamydia
The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting chlamydia:
- Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results
- Use latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
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