Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease. It can affect many parts of the body. In women the infection is often in the urinary tract and female organs. It is important to find and treat chlamydia because it can cause painful infection and scarring of the female organs. It can also cause infertility (inability to get pregnant).
If you already have chlamydia and then have unsafe sex with someone who has HIV, you are more likely to be infected with HIV.
Bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis cause the infection. The infection is usually passed from person to person during sex.
Often there are no symptoms, especially early in the infection. When symptoms are present, they are likely to be:
Chlamydia can infect the throat and cause a sore throat 1 or more days after oral sex. It can also infect the anus (rectum), causing itching, discharge, and pain, if you have had anal sex.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. You will usually have a pelvic exam to get a sample from your cervix (the opening of the uterus, where menstrual blood comes from) for tests. Sometimes a sample of urine may be tested.
Because chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease and can have complications, healthcare providers recommend yearly tests for chlamydia in sexually active teens and young women up to age 25. A test for chlamydia is also recommended for any woman who has a new sex partner or more than 1 partner. It’s also recommended if your partner has had another sex partner. This is especially important if you haven’t used condoms every time you have sex.
Not all healthcare providers routinely check for chlamydia early in pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have chlamydia, it is important to be treated to keep your baby from getting infected. Ask your provider to test you for chlamydia especially if:
Antibiotics usually cure the infection. You may need to take more than 1 antibiotic, especially if there is a chance you have other infections, such as gonorrhea. Your sexual partner or partners should also have treatment even if they don’t have any symptoms.
If the infection has spread into your female organs (uterus, ovaries, and Fallopian tubes) and you are very sick, you may need antibiotic treatment in the hospital for a few days. If your symptoms are less severe, 10 to 14 days of antibiotics as an outpatient may be enough treatment.
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are or think you are pregnant. Your provider will prescribe an antibiotic that is safe for the baby.
Cases of chlamydia are required by law to be reported to the local health department. The clinic staff will ask about your sexual partners. They will be told that they have had contact with someone who has chlamydia. This will help them get prompt treatment for the infection. (Your name will not be given.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) follow these infections so they can find epidemics in the early stages. This allows the CDC to take steps to prevent new infections and to get as many people as possible checked and treated. The CDC also watches to see which antibiotics work best to treat the infection.
The symptoms usually go away within a few days after you start taking the antibiotic. Without treatment the disease can cause serious problems. It could make it hard or impossible for you to get pregnant.
The infection can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby during birth. Chlamydia can cause eye infections or pneumonia in the baby. If you had chlamydia while you were pregnant, tell your baby’s healthcare provider. Then your provider will know to watch for problems that could be caused by the infection.