Chlamydia is actually a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) created by bacteria. People who have chlamydia often don’t have outward signs and symptoms in the early stages. That might make you feel you shouldn’t worry. However, chlamydia can cause health problems after all, including preventing women from getting pregnant or even endangering their pregnancies.
If you have unprotected sex with someone whose STI status you’re not sure of, get tested for chlamydia and other STIs. You should get tested every time you might be exposed.
The treatment for chlamydia is oral antibiotics offered either in multiple doses or just one dose. Take all medication as prescribed by the doctor until the pills are gone. Waiting too long to treat chlamydia can create serious complications. Make sure you talk to a doctor as soon as you think you might have been exposed.
Sex without a condom and unprotected oral sex are the main ways a you can contact chlamydia infection. You don’t have to experience penetration to get it. Touching genitals together may transmit the bacteria. It can equally be contracted during anal sex.
Newborn babies can get chlamydia from their infected mother during birth. Most prenatal testing includes a chlamydia test, but it doesn’t hurt to cross-check with your OB-GYN during your first prenatal checkup.
You can acquire a chlamydia infection in the eye through oral or genital contact with the eyes, but this is not common.
Men and women can both acquire the infection, but women are more likely to be diagnosed. Statistically, you’re most likely to get an STI if you have sex with more than one person. Infection levels are highest among younger women, partly because their immature cervical cells are more vulnerable to infection, but older age isn’t a protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all sexually active women aged 25 years and younger should get screened for chlamydia every year, as well as older women with risk factors like multiple or new partners.
Other risk factors include having had an STI in the past or currently having an infection, since that could lower your resistance.
An act of sexual assault puts you at risk for chlamydia and other STIs. If you were actually forced into any sexual activity, including oral sex, you should get tested as soon as possible. Organizations like the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) give support for survivors of rape or sexual assault. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential help.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms
Many people don’t feel the symptoms of chlamydia. Most people have no signs nor symptoms at all. If symptoms do appear, it’s usually one to three weeks after you’ve been infected.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- burning sensation during urination
- yellow or green discharge from the penis or vagina
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain in the testicles
- painful sexual intercourse in women (dyspareunia)
In some situations in women, the infection can spread to the fallopian tubes, which may create a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a medical emergency. The symptoms of PID are:
- severe pelvic pain
- abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods
It’s also possible to get a chlamydia infection in the anus. In this case, the main signs are often discharge, pain, and bleeding from this area.
If you have oral sex with someone who has the infection, you may get it in your throat. You may see a sore throat, cough, or fever. It’s also possible to carry the bacteria in your throat and not know it.
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The symptoms of STIs in men and women can be different, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms.
When you visit a doctor about chlamydia, you’ll likely be asked about your symptoms. If you don’t have any, your doctor may ask why you think you might have the infection. In this case, it’s vital to talk about how you think you were exposed.
The most effective diagnostic test for chlamydia is to swab the vagina in women and to test the urine in men. If there’s a chance the infection is in your anus or throat, these areas may be swabbed as well.
The good news is that chlamydia is actually easy to treat. Since it’s bacterial in nature, it’s treated with antibiotics. Azithromycin is an antibiotic usually prescribed in a single, large dose, but the dose may also be spread out over five days. Doxycycline is an antibiotic and must be taken twice per day for about one week.
Your doctor may prescribe other antibiotics. No matter which antibiotic you’re given, you’ll have to follow the dosage instructions carefully to make sure the infection clears up fully. This can take up to two weeks, even with the single-dose medications.
Don’t have sex during the treatment time. You can get chlamydia if you’re exposed again, even if you’ve treated a previous infection.