Chlamydia is a very common infection caused by bacteria. Over a million cases are reported each year and teens and young adults have the highest rates of infection.
The bacteria that cause chlamydia usually infect the female cervix or the urethra in both males and females. It can also infect the rectum, throat or eyes.
You can get chlamydia from vaginal, anal or oral sex. The chlamydia bacteria can live in the tissue that lines the openings of your body like the vagina, urethra, rectum or the throat (mucus membrane). It can get passed between two people any time these tissues come together during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
What are the signs and symptoms? What can happen?
Most people who have chlamydia don’t know because they don’t have symptoms. Medical professionals sometimes call it a “silent epidemic” because it can cause much damage without people even knowing they have it.
People infected with chlamydia often have no signs or symptoms at all. You might have a thick yellow or clear discharge from the penis or vagina, pain or burning when you urinate (pee), or pain or bleeding during sex. Women may experience abnormal periods or bleeding between periods. Symptoms may show up 7-28 days after having unprotected sex.
For females, untreated chlamydia can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), an infection of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can also cause infertility so you can’t ever get pregnant. PID can also lead to problems like chronic pelvic pain or cause life-threatening conditions like ectopic pregnancy.
In males, untreated chlamydia may spread to the testicles, causing pain, and sometimes infertility, too.
Chlamydia infection increases your likelihood of getting HIV. Pregnant women who have chlamydia can pass it on to their babies during birth, which could cause blindness or lung damage for the baby.
Is there a cure? How is it treated?
Yes, chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. It is important to follow instructions from your healthcare provider about treatment. Don’t have sex until all partners have finished the medication.
If you test positive for chlamydia, get tested again three (3) months later to make sure you don’t have it again. If you’re sexually active and under 25, you should get tested for chlamydia every year.
How can you prevent it?
The only method that is 100% effective in preventing STDs is abstinence, but if you’re sexually active, the best way to avoid chlamydia is to use a latex condom correctly every time you have sex.
Latex condoms give good protection against chlamydia during vaginal, anal and oral sex on a penis. For protection against chlamydia during oral sex on a vagina, you can use a dental dam – a thin square of latex – between the mouth and the vulva.