Last updated: October 12, 2022
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium (germ) and is the most commonly reported STI in the United States.
How do I get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is passed from one person to another by vaginal, oral or anal sex, and from mother to baby during birth.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
- Burning or pain while peeing
- Abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina
- Irritation around the anus
- Itching around the opening of the penis
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Painful intercourse (women)
- Lower abdominal or back pain (women)
Many infected people do not have symptoms! If symptoms do occur, it is usually between 1 to 3 weeks after contact with an infected person.
What happens if I have chlamydia and I am not treated?
If chlamydia is not treated, both men and women risk becoming sterile. Untreated chlamydia is a major cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women because the germs go deep into the body, damaging the reproductive system. The tiny tubes of the reproductive system can then become scarred and blocked as the body fights the infection. This is a painful condition that can be difficult to treat.
Remember, you will get chlamydia again unless every one of your sex partners is treated and cured. Having this infection once does not protect a person from getting it again. Douches and enemas can wash chlamydia and other germs deeper into the body. Do not use them without checking with your doctor.
- Increased risk for getting HIV
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (women)
- Infertility (unable to have babies)
- Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
- Chronic pelvic pain
- During pregnancy:
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight newborns
- Eye and respiratory tract infections in newborns.
- Transmission from an infected pregnant woman to her baby can lead to serious infections in the baby.
- Neonatal conjunctivitis
How can I prevent getting chlamydia?
The best way to prevent getting chlamydia is to avoid vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. One way to do this is by practicing abstinence. Abstinence means not having sex with anyone. Another way to prevent getting chlamydia is by having only one partner who only has sex with you.
People who decide to have sex, especially if they have multiple partners, must be responsible for protecting themselves and others from infections. Do this by knowing the right way to use condoms and barriers and use them every time you have sex. Condoms can help prevent the spread of chlamydia. Though not 100% effective, condoms are the best protection. Even if using another birth control method, use a condom if there is a risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection during sex. Also, it is important to avoid abusing alcohol and drugs because they can prevent you from making safe choices to protect your health.
Is there a test and treatment for chlamydia?
Yes. You can be tested for chlamydia even when there are no symptoms. A sample of genital cells is collected using a small swab. There is also a new urine test. Not all doctors test for chlamydia; therefore, be sure to ask your physician if you wish to be tested. Antibiotics can cure chlamydia if you test positive. If you have symptoms or think you have an STI, call the Department of Health for confidential referral and treatment.
If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, make sure your partners get treated; you can continue to get reinfected if you are not both treated. If you or your partner has chlamydia, do not have sex until treatment is complete. Take all medicine as prescribed, even if you had no symptoms or your symptoms are gone. If you are pregnant, get tested for STIs and HIV early and again late in your pregnancy.
For more information, a referral or CONFIDENTIAL treatment, contact:
STI Prevention and Care Program
Anne Arundel County Department of Health
1 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Suite 200
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.