Sexually Active? Get the Facts About Chlamydia
By Adaora Udoh, MD – Virtua Ob/Gyn
Symptoms related to sexually transmitted infections (STI) get lots of internet searches. Because, let’s face it, who really wants to talk about them? But there is one person who really wants to know if you have concerns about your sexual health – your doctor.
With searches for the STI chlamydia spiking in the last few months, it’s time to answer a few questions about this very common concern.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common bacterial STIs. It’s transmitted through sexual contact between the person infected and his or her partner. It’s often spread through contact with the genitals, anus or mouth.
How do you know if you have chlamydia?
Symptoms of chlamydia include foul-smelling and/or abnormal discharge, abnormal bleeding and pelvic pain. As the infection progresses, symptoms can include fever or pain with urination. However, it’s also possible to carry and transmit chlamydia with no symptoms.
If you have some of these symptoms, do you definitely have chlamydia?
The symptoms of chlamydia are similar to other infections, so you really can’t take a chance on self-diagnosis. You need a definitive diagnosis using a test on cell cultures that can only be taken by your doctor. It's important for symptoms to be correctly diagnosed so they can be properly and quickly treated.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics such as azithromycin or doxycycline.
Once you’ve taken antibiotics, is it cured?
One course of antibiotics almost always clears the infection. However, if it isn't cured by antibiotics, it's most often because the person didn’t take the entire course of medication, or was re-exposed to the bacteria by having sexual contact with the same infected person. While rare, it's possible to have an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria.
I recommend that patients get tested again after treatment to make sure the infection is gone. Once chlamydia is properly treated, it disappears from the body unless you're re-exposed.
How do you prevent chlamydia?
Using barriers like condoms and dental dams can reduce your risk of exposure to chlamydia, but they're never 100% guaranteed to eliminate the risk – especially if you have contact with someone who has the infection. If you have chlamydia, it’s important to let your sexual partner or partners know that they should be tested, too. This reduces your risk of re-infection.
It’s important to get tested for chlamydia and other STIs regularly. You should also talk with your sexual partners about their status. Though it might feel awkward or difficult, talking about STIs, getting tested regularly, and getting proper treatment aren't shameful things. They’re important steps to keep your sexual relationships healthy and positive.
Updated January 13, 2022