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Sexual Health

STIs: Chlamydia
What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. Both men and women can contract Chlamydia. It can infect the urethra in man and the urethra, cervix, and/or the upper reproductive organs in women. Chlamydia can also infect the rectum and eyes.

How is Chlamydia transmitted?

Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Hand-to-eye contact can lead to Chlamydia infection in the eyes.

Chlamydia can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.

How common is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States. In 2002, 834,555 cases of Chlamydia in the United States were reported to the CDC. The 20-29 year old age group had the highest rate of new cases of Chlamydia.

What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is known as a "silent disease" because nearly 75% of infected women and 50% of infected men do not have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they typically appear within 7 to 21 days after infected. Symptoms include:

In Women In Men
Painful urination Painful urination or itching sensation during urination
Cloudy urine Cloudy urine
Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding Watery or slimy discharge from the penis
Genital itching Crusting on the tip of the penis
Irregular menstrual bleeding Tender anus or scrotum
Lower abdominal pain Pink eye
Fever and fatigue  
Swollen and painful glands at the opening of the vagina  
Pink eye  
How is Chlamydia diagnosed?

While at the healthcare provider's office, a swab may be obtained from the female cervix or vagina (possibly a self-swab) or male urethra to test for Chlamydia. A urine sample may be collected instead.

How is Chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is treated with prescription antibiotics. Even if your symptoms stop, you should complete the entire prescription to prevent recurrence. Do not have sex with the partner who infected you until you are SURE he or she has been treated. It is best to wait 7 days after treatment before resuming sexual relations.

Does my partner need to be treated?

Yes. You should tell your partner right away if you are diagnosed with Chlamydia. He or she will need to be tested and treated for Chlamydia. If only one partner is treated, the infection could be passed back and forth.

What are the possible complications if Chlamydia is not treated?

The infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause permanent damage to reproductive organs. This damage could cause chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women are up to 5 times more likely to contract HIV if exposed to HIV while infected with Chlamydia.

In pregnant women, untreated Chlamydia can lead to preterm delivery. Babies born to women with Chlamydia can become infected in their eyes and respiratory tracts. Chlamydia is a leading cause of infant pneumonia and pink eye in newborns. Untreated Chlamydia in newborns can lead to blindness.

Men do not experience complications as frequently as women. The infection could spread to the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm from the testes), which can cause pain, fever, and in some cases, sterility. Untreated Chlamydia can cause arthritis and skin lesions.

Are there special considerations in the prevention of Chlamydia?

In addition to the Disease Prevention and Safer Sex tips:

  • The CDC recommends annual Chlamydia testing for all sexually active women age 25 and under. An annual Chlamydia test is recommended for older women with any risk factors (new or multiple sex partners).
  • If you are pregnant, ask for a Chlamydia test early in your pregnancy.

Indiana state law requires that Chlamydia infection be reported to the Indiana State Department of Health. Trained health department workers may contact the individual diagnosed with Chlamydia infection to ensure treatment of the reported person AND their contacts.