Chlamydia – Testing and Treatment

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are about four million cases of chlamydia in the United States every year.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea (another sexually transmitted infection) cause similar signs and symptoms, including discharge from the penis or vagina and pain with urination. However, chlamydia usually causes no symptoms. In addition, chlamydia can cause serious long-term complications in women who are not treated. Fortunately, chlamydia is curable with antibiotic treatment.

What causes Chlamydia?

Chlamydia infections are caused by a bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection is spread during intimate sexual contact. A man does not have to ejaculate to spread the infection. It is not possible to become infected with chlamydia by touching an object like a toilet seat.

Your risk of getting chlamydia is greater if you have a new sexual partner, more than one sexual partner, or if you have had chlamydia before and have sex with a partner who wasn’t treated for this infection.


What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

Chlamydia infections can cause mild to severe symptoms. However, most people have no symptoms at all. This means that it is easy to spread the infection without ever knowing you are infected.

Women — Up to 90 percent of women with chlamydia have no symptoms at all. Of those who do, the most common symptoms include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Burning or pain with urination

Men — Up to 70 percent of men with chlamydia have no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms of chlamydia in men include:

  • Burning or pain with urination
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Pain or tenderness of the testicles
  • Swelling in the scrotum.

Chlamydia can also cause an inflammation of the conjunctiva (conjunctivitis). This can be caused by exposure to genital fluids, such as semen or vaginal discharge, from a person infected with the bacteria.

How is Chlamydia tested?

Testing for chlamydia is done in a doctor or nurse’s office with a sample of urine or with a swab of fluid from the vagina or from the cervix (in women) or urethra (in men). Screening is recommended once a year in sexually active men and women. The screening is done at your gynecologist’s office.

How is Chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is treated by a one-time antibiotic treatment that is taken by mouth, azithromycin. Azithromycin is safe to take during pregnancy.

Anyone who is allergic to azithromycin (or erythromycin) can take another antibiotic, doxycycline, but this must be taken twice daily for 7 days. It is important not to have sex during this treatment. Doxycycline is not used in pregnant women because of the risk of harm to developing teeth and bones in the fetus.

Some people who are infected with chlamydia may also be infected with gonorrhea. Thus, testing for gonorrhea is done at the same time as chlamydia testing. If the patient has both infections, additional treatment will be needed.

All sexual partners should be treated at the same time. Retesting for “test of cure” is recommended in 3 months.



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