Chlamydia (kluh-MID-ee-uh) is a common sexually transmitted illness. You may not know you have chlamydia because many people never develop the signs or symptoms, which may include genital pain and a discharge from the vagina or penis.
Chlamydia affects both men and women and occurs in all age groups, though it's most prevalent among young women. Chlamydia isn't difficult to treat once you know you have it. If it's left untreated, however, chlamydia can lead to more-serious health problems.
Early-stage chlamydia infections often cause few or no signs and symptoms. When signs or symptoms do occur, they usually start one to three weeks after you've been exposed to chlamydia. Even when signs and symptoms do occur, they're often mild and passing, making them easy to overlook.
Signs and symptoms of chlamydia infection may include:
When to see a doctor
Chlamydia is caused by bacteria and is most commonly spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. It's also possible for a mother to spread chlamydia to her child during delivery, causing pneumonia or a serious eye infection in her newborn.
Factors that increase your risk of chlamydia include:
Chlamydia can be associated with:
Preparing for your appointment
If you think you have a sexually transmitted illness, such as chlamydia, make an appointment to see your family doctor.
What you can do
You also might want to prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor. Sample questions include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Because of the chance of other health problems if you contract chlamydia, ask your doctor how often you should have chlamydia screening tests if you're at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends chlamydia screening for:
Screening and diagnosis of chlamydia is relatively simple. Tests include:
In a Pap test, your doctor uses a vaginal speculum to hold your vaginal walls apart. Next, a sample of cells from your cervix is collected using a small cone-shaped brush and a tiny wooden spatula (1 ...
Treatments and drugs
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. You may be asked to take your medication in a one-time dose, or you may need to take the medication daily or multiple times a day for five to 10 days.
In most cases, the infection resolves within one to two weeks. During that time you should abstain from sex. Your sexual partner or partners also need treatment even though they may not have signs or symptoms. Otherwise, the infection can be passed back and forth between sexual partners. Having chlamydia or being treated for it in the past provides no immunity against possible reinfection in the future.
The surest way to prevent a chlamydia infection is to abstain from sexual activities. Short of that, you can:
Last Updated: 2011-04-29
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