Chlamydia (“kla-MID-ee-uh”) is a curable sexually transmitted infection
(STI), which is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. You
can get genital chlamydial infection during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual
contact with an infected partner. It can cause serious problems in men and
women, such as penile discharge and infertility respectively, as well as in
newborn babies of infected mothers.
Chlamydia is one of the most widespread bacterial STIs in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 3
million people are infected each year.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CHLAMYDIA?
Chlamydia bacteria live in vaginal fluid and in semen. Chlamydia is sometimes
called the “silent” disease because you can have it and not know it. Symptoms
usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after being infected. Those who do have
symptoms may have an abnormal discharge (mucus or pus) from the vagina or penis
or experience pain while urinating. These early symptoms may be very mild.
The infection may move inside your body if it is not treated. Bacteria can
infect the cervix, fallopian tubes, and urine canal in women, where they can
cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In men the bacteria can cause
epidydimitis (inflammation of the reproductive area near the testicles). PID and
epidydimitis are two very serious illnesses.
C. trachomatis also can cause inflammation of the rectum and lining
of the eye (conjunctivitis or “pink eye”). The bacteria also can infect the
throat from oral sexual contact with an infected partner.
HOW IS CHLAMYDIA DIAGNOSED?
Chlamydia is easily confused with gonorrhea because the symptoms of both
diseases are similar and the diseases can occur together, though rarely.
The most reliable ways to find out whether the infection is chlamydia are
through laboratory tests.
• The usual test is for a health care provider to collect a sample of fluid
from the vagina or penis and send it to a laboratory that will look for the
• The other test looks for bacteria in a urine sample and does not require a
pelvic exam or swabbing of the penis, and results are available within 24
HOW IS CHLAMYDIA TREATED?
If you are infected with C. trachomatis, your health care provider
will probably give you a prescription for an antibiotic such as azithromycin
(taken for one day only) or doxycycline (taken for 7 days). Or, you might get a
prescription for another antibiotic such as erythromycin or ofloxacin.
Health care providers may treat pregnant women with azithromycin or
erythromycin, or sometimes, with amoxicillin. Penicillin, which health care
providers often use to treat some other STIs, won’t cure chlamydial
If you have chlamydia, you should
• Take all your medicine, even after symptoms disappear, for the amount of
• Go to your health care provider again if your symptoms do not disappear
within 1 to 2 weeks after finishing the medicine
• Tell your sex partners that you have chlamydia so they can be tested and
treated, if necessary
You also should not have sexual intercourse until your treatment is completed