Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection. You can be infected and not have any symptoms. This means you could pass the infection to your sexual partner without knowing that you are infected. Sometimes the infection causes severe problems, especially in women.
Bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis cause the infection. The infection is usually passed from person to person during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
In men chlamydia usually infects the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine and semen out of the penis. Chlamydia may also infect the epididymis or the prostate gland. The epididymis is a coiled tube attached to the testicle. It stores and carries sperm. The prostate is a gland at the base of the penis. The anus and rectum may be infected if you have anal intercourse.
Often there are no symptoms, especially early in the infection. When it causes symptoms, they may include:
Chlamydia can also infect the throat and cause a sore throat for 1 or more days after oral sex.
Sometimes infections of the prostate or epididymis are sudden and severe. These infections may cause fever or other symptoms of illness, such as headache, back pain, or muscle aches. Sudden illness with fever needs prompt medical care.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Depending on your sexual history and your symptoms, you may have 1 or more of the following tests:
These tests help your provider know what is causing the infection and which antibiotic will work best.
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. Discuss this with your healthcare provider.
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.
If the urethra is infected, the symptoms are usually gone a few days after you start taking the antibiotic. The symptoms of infections of the epididymis or prostate may take several more days to go away completely. Infection of the prostate may need up to 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment.
It is very important to kill all of the bacteria. Take your medicine for as long as it is prescribed, even if your symptoms are gone before you finish taking it.
If you keep having symptoms even though you are taking an antibiotic, tell your healthcare provider. It is especially important to tell your provider if any symptoms come back after you finish taking the antibiotic.
Chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women. This means you may have trouble having children. The risk is greatest if you have an infection for weeks or months without treatment.
Untreated chlamydia in pregnancy can cause infections in the baby at birth, for example, pneumonia.