Chlamydia is an infection. It is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It is most often spread through sexual contact.
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
- 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 you for other types of sexually transmitted infection (STIs). Common STIs are gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and 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
The usual treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics.
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.
A follow-up evaluation may be done in 4 weeks to see if the infection has been cured.
Antibiotic treatment almost always works if you and your partner 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
- 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.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydial infections in adolescents and adults. Updated June 4, 2015. www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/chlamydia.htm. Accessed July 14, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for laboratory-based detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae -- 2014. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2014;63(RR-02):1-19. PMID: 24622331. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24622331.
Geisler WM. Diseases caused by chlamydiae. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 318.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for chlamydial infection: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(12):902-910. doi: 10.7325/M14-1981.
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.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.