Chlamydia

Definition

Chlamydia is an infection. It is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It is most often spread through sexual contact.

Causes

Both males and females may have chlamydia. However, they may not have any symptoms. As a result, you may become infected or pass the infection to your partner without knowing it.

You are more likely to become infected with chlamydia if you:

  • Have sex without wearing a male or female condom
  • Have more than one sexual partner
  • Use drugs or alcohol and then have sex
  • Been infected with chlamydia before

Symptoms

In men, chlamydia may cause symptoms similar to gonorrhea. Symptoms may include:

  • Burning feeling during urination
  • Discharge from the penis or rectum
  • Tenderness or pain in the testicles
  • Rectal discharge or pain

Symptoms that may occur in women include:

  • Burning feeling during urination
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Rectal pain or discharge
  • Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes), or liver inflammation similar to hepatitis
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding after intercourse

Exams and Tests

If you have symptoms of a chlamydia infection, your health care provider will collect a culture or perform a test called a nucleic acid amplification test.

In the past, testing required an exam by a provider. Today, very accurate tests can be done on urine samples. Results take 1 to 2 days to come back. Your provider may also check if you have other types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Common STIs are:

  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes

Even if you have no symptoms, you may need a chlamydia test if you:

  • Are 25 years old or younger and sexually active
  • Have a new sexual partner or more than one partner

Treatment

The most common treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics.

Both you and your sexual partners must be treated. This will ensure that they do not pass the infection back and forth. A person may become infected with chlamydia many times.

You and your partner are asked to abstain from sexual intercourse during the time of treatment.

A follow-up may be done in 4 weeks to see if the infection has been cured.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Antibiotic treatment almost always works. You and your partner should take the medicines as directed.

If chlamydia spreads into your uterus, it can cause scarring. Scarring can make it harder for you to get pregnant.

You can help prevent infection with chlamydia by:

  • Finishing your antibiotics when you are treated
  • Making sure your sexual partners also take antibiotics
  • Talking to your provider about being tested for chlamydia
  • Going to see your provider if you have symptoms
  • Wearing condoms and practicing safe sex

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have symptoms of chlamydia.

Many people with chlamydia may not have symptoms. Therefore, sexually active adults should be screened once in a while for the infection.

Images

Antibodies

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for laboratory-based detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoea -- 2014. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2014;63(RR-02):1-19. PMID: 24622331 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24622331.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines: Chlamydial infections in adolescents and adults. www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/chlamydia.htm. Updated June 4, 2015. Accessed May 4, 2018.

Geisler WM. Diseases caused by chlamydiae. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 318.

LeFevre ML; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(12):902-910. PMID: 25243785 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25243785.

Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015;64(RR-03):1-137. PMID: 26042815 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26042815.

Review Date: 
4/19/2018
Reviewed By: 
John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Related Health Topics