Center for Young Women's Health

Chlamydia

 

Remember

  • Chlamydia is spread through unprotected sex, and most women don't have symptoms.
  • If you are having sex, get tested at least once a year!
  • Chlamydia should be treated early to prevent serious infections and infertility.
Getting Treatment:
The Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital offers special services in the diagnosis and treatment of chlamydia.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. It's caused by bacteria that can infect the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, anus, urethra, or eye.

 

How common is chlamydia?

Four million American women and men are diagnosed with chlamydia every year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1,307,893 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010 (in the United States). However, there are many more people with chlamydia who don't know they have it because they've never had symptoms.

 

Who is most likely to get chlamydia?

Chlamydia is most common among:

How is chlamydia spread?

Chlamydia is spread from person-to-person during unprotected sex. It can be passed through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can also be passed to the eye by a hand or other body part moistened with infected secretions. Chlamydia can be passed from a woman infected with chlamydia to her fetus during birth. Chlamydia cannot be spread by kissing, toilet seats, bed linens, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, silverware, or sharing clothes.

 

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Around 90% percent of women and 70% of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. If they do have symptoms, the symptoms usually start anywhere from 1-3 weeks after becoming infected.

 

Symptoms of chlamydia can include:

These symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of gonorrhea, another STI.

 

Where can I get tested and treated for chlamydia?

You can be tested and treated for chlamydia at family planning health centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics, and health departments. If you are less than 25 years old and have ever had sexual intercourse, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for chlamydia at least once a year and more often if you change sex partners or have had chlamydia or other STIs before.

 

How is chlamydia diagnosed?

Your health care provider can diagnose chlamydia by testing samples from the urine, vagina, or cervix. You may be asked to collect a urine sample in a cup or a sample from your vagina with a small swab. Your health care provider can also collect a sample from the vagina or cervix by doing a pelvic exam. It's important to get a test in order to tell if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia. They have very similar symptoms, but each infection needs a different treatment. If the test comes back positive for chlamydia (for either you or your partner(s) you may need to have further tests done to check for other possible infections.

 

Is there a cure for chlamydia?

Yes. Chlamydia is easy to treat and cure, but remember that just because you've had it once doesn't mean you can't get infected again. It's important that you get treated early so that more serious health problems don't occur. Both sexual partners must get treated at the same time so you don't re-infect each other. Your health care provider will decide which treatment is best for you and your partner(s) and then give you a prescription for an antibiotic that will kill the chlamydia bacteria. Remember to take ALL of the medicine prescribed for you, even if the symptoms go away. This is because the infection can still be in your body.

 

Is chlamydia dangerous?

If chlamydia is not treated, it can cause serious health problems. It can cause pain in the lower part of your abdomen (belly). The infection usually begins on the cervix, but if it's not treated, it can spread to the fallopian tubes and/or ovaries and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). 30% of untreated chlamydia turns into PID. PID can lead to infertility or ectopic (tubal) pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes).

 

How can I prevent spreading chlamydia?

If you think you have chlamydia, the first thing you should do is stop having sexual intercourse and get tested and treated. Make sure you tell all current and past sexual partners that you have chlamydia, since you could have infected them. You may find this hard to do, but it's very important so that those infected can get treated before more serious health problems occur. Don't have sex until you have finished treatment and your health care provider tells you that you're cured. Make sure you use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

 

How can I avoid getting chlamydia?

The best way to lower your risk of getting chlamydia is not to have sexual intercourse. However, if you decide to have sexual intercourse, make sure you use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

 

What types of birth control protect against chlamydia?

The only types of birth control that protect against chlamydia are male latex and polyurethane condoms and female condoms. Latex condoms are the best protection against chlamydia. Polyurethane condoms and female condoms also provide some protection against STIs. 

 

Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital

 

Updated: 11/20/2012

 

Related Guides:

Making Healthy Sexual Decisions

As a young adult, it's normal to think about sex, have sexual feelings, and have a desire to learn more about your own body. Deciding to have a sexual relationship is an important decision since it involves both your body and your emotions. You need to make sure that it is the right decision for you...

 

Female Condoms

The female condom is a lubricated sheath worn by the female inside of her vagina during sex. It provides protection against pregnancy and some protection against STIs...

 

Male Condoms

The male condom is a sheath worn over the penis during intercourse. It prevents pregnancy by acting as a barrier and preventing the man's semen from entering the woman's vagina...

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