What Is It?
-ee-uh) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by
. Although you may not have heard its name, chlamydia is one of the
most common STDs. Because there often
aren't any symptoms, though, lots of people can have
chlamydia and not know it.
The bacteria can move from one person to another through sexual
intercourse, and possibly through oral-genital contact. If someone
touches bodily fluids that contain the bacteria and then touches
his or her eye, a chlamydial eye infection is possible. Chlamydia
also can be passed from a mother to her baby while the baby is
being delivered. This can cause pneumonia and conjuntivitis, which
can become very serious for the baby if it's not treated. You
can't catch chlamydia from a towel, doorknob, or toilet
How Does a Girl Know She Has It?
It can be difficult for a girl to know whether she has chlamydia
because most girls don't have any symptoms. Chlamydia may cause
an unusual vaginal discharge or pain during urination. Some girls
with chlamydia also have pain in their lower abdomens, pain during
sexual intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods.
Sometimes a chlamydia infection can cause a mild fever, muscle
aches, or headache.
How Does a Guy Know He Has It?
Like a girl, a guy can also have a difficult time telling
whether he has chlamydia. Some guys may have a discharge from the
tip of the penis (the
- where urine comes out), or experience itching or burning
sensations around the penis. Rarely, the testicles may become
swollen. Many times, a guy with chlamydia may have few or no
symptoms, so he might not even know he has it.
When Do Symptoms Appear?
Someone who has contracted chlamydia may see symptoms a week
later. In some people, the symptoms take up to 3 weeks to appear,
and many people never develop any symptoms.
What Can Happen?
If left untreated in girls, chlamydia can cause an infection of
the urethra (where urine comes out) and inflammation (swelling and
soreness caused by the infection) of the cervix. It can also lead
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
, which is an infection of the uterus, ovaries, and/or fallopian
tubes. PID can cause infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancies
later in life.
If left untreated in guys, chlamydia can cause inflammation of
the urethra and epididymis (the structure attached to the testicle
that helps transport sperm).
How Is It Treated?
If you think you may have chlamydia or if you have had a partner
who may have chlamydia, you need to see your family doctor,
adolescent doctor, or gynecologist. Some local health clinics, such
as Planned Parenthood, can also test and treat people for
The doctor will do an
that may include swabbing the vagina or penis for secretions, which
will then be analyzed. Sometimes doctors can diagnose chlamydia by
testing a person's urine. Talk to your doctor about which test
is best for you. And let the doctor know the best way to reach you
confidentially with any test results.
If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, the doctor will prescribe
antibiotics, which should clear up the infection in 7 to 10 days.
Anyone with whom you've had sex will also need to be tested and
treated for chlamydia because that person may be infected but not
have any symptoms. This includes any sexual partners in the last 2
months or your last sexual partner if it has been more than 2
months since your last sexual experience. It is very important that
someone with a chlamydia infection abstain from having sex
until they and their partner have been treated.
If a sexual partner has chlamydia, quick treatment will reduce
his or her risk of complications and will lower your chances
of being reinfected if you have sex with that partner again. (You
can become infected with chlamydia again even after you have been
treated because having chlamydia does not make you immune to
It's better to prevent chlamydia than to treat it, and the
only way to completely prevent the infection is to
from all types of sexual intercourse. If you do have sex, use a
latex condom every time. This is the only
birth control method
that will help prevent chlamydia.
Michele Van Vranken, MD
Date reviewed: April 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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