Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on March 27, 2020. Written by Jordana White. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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If you’re a sexually active woman, you probably already know at least something about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You’re likely aware that it’s important to protect yourself from STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, and know that engaging in unprotected sexual contact of any kind elevates your risk for these infections. But to stay safe, you also need to know about all other infection risk factors—so keep reading to learn more about the causes for chlamydia, how to get rid of chlamydia if you’re infected, and more.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. It’s also considered a sexually transmitted infection (or STI), which means that it can spread between sex partners through any kind of sexual contact. This contact is not limited to vaginal intercourse; you can also contract oral chlamydia through oral sex, although it is a less common cause of Chlamydia trachomatis infections. Because sexual contact increases your risk, it’s a good idea to know if you have an STD before you have intercourse with a new partner.
You can also spread chlamydia to different parts of your body without sexual contact. If you have a chlamydia infection in your vagina, you could spread it to your anus just by the act of wiping after you use the bathroom. You could also transmit a chlamydia infection to your eye, simply with hand-to-eye contact. Keep in mind that this form of eye infection is rare, but can still occur if your hands come in contact with the bacteria that causes chlamydia infections. And if you’re pregnant, you can give the infection to your unborn baby passing through your cervix.
In short, there are many different ways you can contract or spread chlamydia. To protect your sexual health and the health of your sexual partner, get tested for chlamydia before beginning any new relationship.
Fortunately, you can’t contract chlamydia on your own because it spreads through sexual contact with other people.
Chlamydia bacteria does, however, thrive in vaginal fluid, semen, and pre-ejaculate (the fluids that the penis may release before sexual climax). For that reason, using a latex condom properly during sexual intercourse and avoiding any kind of unprotected sex is the best way to protect yourself from developing or passing on a chlamydia infection. Caution is important, but fear is unnecessary: you don’t need to worry about contracting chlamydia from kissing someone or sitting on a public toilet seat.
Unfortunately, chlamydia is very easily transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. This is especially true because chlamydia infections are sometimes asymptomatic—meaning they don’t cause noticeable symptoms.
In fact, any time you come in contact with the bacteria—even if your sex partner doesn’t ejaculate or you aren’t fully penetrated—you could become infected or pass along the chlamydial infection. This being the case, men and women should get tested for STIs before beginning any new sexual relationship.
You can have chlamydia without experiencing any symptoms. In fact, many women—approximately 70% of those who are infected—are completely asymptomatic, which means that they are also unaware that they are carrying Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria.
The lack of symptoms can cause health problems over time because an untreated chlamydia infection can lead to complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Also, if you become pregnant and have chlamydia, you may develop an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants in your fallopian tubes instead of in your uterus). Some people with untreated chlamydia may develop reactive arthritis, a form of joint inflammation that’s caused by the chlamydia bacterium (as well as other kinds of bacteria). Untreated chlamydia can also damage your reproductive organs, which could potentially lead to infertility.
Thankfully, effective treatments exist for chlamydial infections. But to get treatment, you first need to determine if you have chlamydia in the first place. As mentioned above, you could have chlamydia without any symptoms. But there are certain telltale symptoms you may experience that can help identify it.
Chlamydia symptoms look very different in men and women. If your male partner experiences urethritis (itching or burning when urinating), or has discharge from his penis, he may have chlamydia. If that’s the case, you should both test for sexually transmitted infections.
Chlamydia symptoms in women look different. You may develop abnormal vaginal discharge, and you may experience a burning sensation when urinating. You might also experience pelvic pain, which could manifest as lower abdominal pain. Occasionally, you can develop spotting (bleeding between your periods).
If you notice any of these symptoms, or if you’ve been told by a partner that they have chlamydia, you should talk to your healthcare provider and consider getting tested for chlamydia. Fortunately, you can easily take a chlamydia test at home. And if you test positive for a chlamydial infection, getting treated is relatively easy.
If your chlamydia test comes back positive, you may be wondering how to get chlamydia treated. It’s important to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. Most likely, you will be treated for chlamydia with oral antibiotics. With treatment, infections often clear up in one to two weeks.
Even if your symptoms resolve sooner, however, it’s very important to complete your healthcare provider’s entire course of prescribed antibiotics. Otherwise, the infection may not be completely eliminated and you could be at risk for reinfection. You could also still pass chlamydia to a partner if you don’t complete the recommended course of antibiotics.
Finally, as part of your treatment for chlamydia, connect with any sexual partners you may have unintentionally exposed to this infection. Your healthcare provider may also recommend antibiotics for your partner(s). This is a key part of chlamydia treatment, since it can help prevent reinfection when you resume sexual intercourse.
Chlamydia is a potentially harmful infection, but fortunately, it’s easy to test for. It’s also simple to treat when you have a confirmed diagnosis. The important thing is stay informed and know your status—something you can do from the privacy and comfort of home with our STD Test for women.
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