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Chlamydia

What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. It’s caused by the chlamydia trachomatis organism, which acts like both a bacteria and a virus; infection occurs inside the genitals or urinary tract of men and women. It’s most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, but babies can also contract it from their infected mothers at birth.

How do I know if I have chlamydia?
Most women, and up to 75% of men, have no symptoms; many people learn they may have chlamydia from a partner who’s been diagnosed. When symptoms appear, they can be similar to other STIs, including:

Men:
• itching and/or burning around the opening of the urethra;
• burning sensation while urinating; and/or
• discharge from the penis.

Women:
• burning with urination;
• vaginal itching (most causes of which are not due to chlamydia);
• vaginal discharge;
• persistent abdominal pain;
• abnormal vaginal odor;
• bleeding between menstrual periods; and/or
• low-grade fever.

For women, a serious complication is the increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). A woman with PID may have no symptoms, or have abdominal pain, pain when urinating, odorous vaginal discharge, painful intercourse, fever and a general feeling of illness. Untreated, PID may progress to a generalized infection, leading to sterility.

In men, infections can involve the reproductive system, causing testicle pain; sterility can result from severe untreated infections.
Newborns can develop eye, ear and lung infections; these can range from mild to very severe.

How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Diagnosis includes examination of the genital or rectal area and laboratory tests for the organism.

How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics; more than one round may be needed. It’s important to complete the full course of antibiotics, even after symptoms disappear, and to return to your health care provider for follow-up examination. To prevent reinfection, your sexual partners should be seen by a clinician, even if they have no symptoms.

Having one or more cases of a particular STI won’t protect you from getting it again; your body doesn’t develop immunity to them. You can be reinfected during treatment or immediately after treatment ends. It’s also possible to have more than one STI at the same time.