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Chlamydia Overview

On This Page: Symptoms | Causes | Risk Factors | Testing | Prevention 

What Is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common bacterial STD that is easily curable with prescription antibiotics. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and is the most commonly reported STD in the U.S. An estimated 2.86 million Americans get chlamydia each year.1

Most people who have chlamydia don’t show any symptoms, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get tested. If chlamydia is left untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to your reproductive system or even infertility.

Take Charge of Your Health

At least 50% of the time, chlamydia​ ​has​ ​no symptoms​ in men and women which contributes to the disease being extremely common​ ​and​ ​easily​ ​spread​. It can be easily cured with antibiotics; get tested today if you think you may have been exposed.

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Symptoms

Many people with chlamydia don’t have noticeable symptoms. When chlamydia symptoms do appear, they typically present themselves 1-3 weeks after exposure to the bacteria.

For women, symptoms can include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination

If the infection spreads, women can experience abdominal and pelvic pain, fever, nausea, bleeding between periods, and pain during sex.

For men, symptoms can include:

  • Painful or burning sensation during urination
  • Unusual discharge from the penis
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles

For both men and women, symptoms of rectal infection may include rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding.

How Do You Get Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can also be spread via shared sex toys.

In addition, chlamydia can be passed from mother to infant during vaginal childbirth, causing pneumonia and eye damage in the newborn. Screening and treatment of chlamydia in pregnant women is the best way to prevent neonatal chlamydia.

Can You Get Chlamydia Through Kissing or Toilet Seats?

You can’t get chlamydia from mouth-to-mouth kissing. However, if you’re kissing your partner’s genitals and engaging in oral sex, you may be at risk.

Chlamydia is not spread via toilet seats.2

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone who is sexually active can get chlamydia, especially if they are having unprotected sex. However, certain groups of people are at higher risk because of behavioral and biological factors.

Chlamydia is particularly common in young people ages 15-24, who account for almost two-thirds of all chlamydia cases.

Female anatomy can also put women at an increased risk of STD infection. Compared to the skin of the penis, the thinner, more delicate lining of the vagina is easier for the bacteria to penetrate.3 An estimated 1 in 20 sexually active young women between ages 14-24 has chlamydia.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are also at a higher risk and can get chlamydia via oral and anal sex.

How Often Should You Test for Chlamydia?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends at least yearly chlamydia screenings for:4

  • Women under 25
  • Women older than 25 if they have risk factors like new or multiple sex partners or partners with an STD

The CDC also recommends that pregnant women get tested for chlamydia. All pregnant women should be screened for chlamydia during their first prenatal visit. Retesting in the third trimester is recommended for pregnant women younger than 25.

How Do You Prevent Chlamydia?

Abstinence is the only way to be sure you will not get chlamydia or any other STD. However, if you do have sex, there are ways to reduce your risk.

You can decrease your risk of contracting chlamydia by:

  • Using a latex condom or dental dam every time you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex
  • Being in a mutually monogamous relationship with someone who has tested negative
  • Limiting the number of sexual partners
  • Avoiding douching, which can decrease good vaginal bacteria and increase the risk of infection

If you or your partner(s) have symptoms or you think you may be infected, get tested before having sex again. If you test positive and get treated, you should notify your current and recent sex partners so they can get checked and treated too.

Speaking openly with your partner(s) about sexual health and getting regularly tested (even when you don’t have symptoms) helps you know your status and protect your health.

  1. “Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia-detailed.htm
  2. “Is Chlamydia Only Caught Through Sexual Contact?” National Health Service U.K. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/is-chlamydia-only-caught-through-sexual-contact/
  3. “How STDs Impact Women Differently From Men.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/factsheets/stds-women.pdf?s_CID=tw_STD0170644
  4. “Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/screening-recommendations.htm

Medically Reviewed by on February 4, 2020


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