Written on November 23, 2022 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. 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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Chlamydia (sometimes called “the clap” or “the clam”) is an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is easily diagnosed, treated, and cured with a simple course of antibiotics. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers that infections can occur in your mouth, reproductive organs, urethra, rectum, and cervix .
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you can get chlamydia through vaginal, anal, or oral sex . This sexually transmitted infection is usually spread through intimate sexual contact, though penetration and/or ejaculation is not required for it to be transmitted. You may also spread STIs by sharing unwashed and/or uncovered sex toys.
There are many myths about how chlamydia is spread. It’s important to know that chlamydia is not transmitted through casual contact (kissing or hugging, sharing food or drinks, or from toilet seats). The only way for chlamydia to be passed between people, apart from sexual contact, is from a pregnant person to their baby during childbirth.
If you are younger than 25 years old, identify as a man who has sex with men or males, engage in sex work, were assigned female at birth, or if you/a partner has multiple sex partners, you may be at a higher risk of chlamydia.
If you are considered “high risk,” you should be tested more frequently—perhaps every three or six months.
While many people with chlamydia do not have any symptoms at all, symptoms can present themselves differently depending on the sex they were assigned at birth.
Both vulva owners and penis owners may experience abnormal discharge or a burning sensation while urinating. Penis owners may experience swelling in one or both testicles .
Anal symptoms can arise and include rectal pain, anal discharge, and/or bleeding .
Other potential symptoms include:
The tricky thing about chlamydia is that many people with this STI don’t experience any symptoms, so they don’t feel compelled to seek out testing or care. Testing, however, is the best way to keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of STIs/STDs.
If left untreated, chlamydia can have long-term health consequences, particularly for people who are assigned female at birth.
Adverse health outcomes include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), and more rarely, testicular infections . In female anatomy, PID causes the formation of scar tissue, which can create blockages in the fallopian tubes and can lead to ectopic pregnancy and long-term pelvic/abdominal pain .
Regardless of what anatomy you have, leaving chlamydia undiagnosed and untreated will result in the transmission of the infection from one person to another. Studies have demonstrated that chlamydia, when untreated, can also increase the risk of contracting HIV .
Chlamydia is diagnosed through laboratory testing. There are two methods for sample collection—swabs and urine samples. Urine samples are collected in small cups. Swabs can be taken orally, vaginally, rectally, or from the cervix or throat .
If you are sexually active, you should be tested for chlamydia at least once per year and/or after unprotected sexual encounters where you are unsure of the other person(s) STI status. Those at higher risk should be tested more frequently.
If you are pregnant, you should be tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit because chlamydia infections during pregnancy can lead to transmission to the infant, eye infections, or pneumonia in your baby, and can cause early delivery . Chlamydial infections during pregnancy have been connected to low birth weight and perinatal mortality .
If you are diagnosed and undergo treatment for chlamydia, you should be retested three months after treatment because repeat infections are not uncommon .
Treatment for chlamydia includes a course of antibiotics that you should take as directed. Any partner(s) from the previous 60 days should also be notified and tested .
While undergoing treatment, the infection can be spread, so you should avoid sexual contact at least until the treatment is complete and/or until you can be retested .
Although it is curable, it is best to take preventative measures to reduce your risk of contracting chlamydia and/or other STIs. Some recommended practices include:
A 2018 study found that among women, just under one-third of women with STI symptoms were tested for chlamydia , despite there being 1.5 million cases of chlamydia each year . Everlywell is here to support you in maintaining your sexual health by helping to make sure you get the testing you need. We offer three testing options for you to do in the comfort and privacy of your own home: the Female STD Test, the Male STD Test, and the Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test. You can also rest assured knowing that your samples are being tested at CLIA-certified laboratories.
If your lab results are abnormal, Everlywell will also connect you with its national independent physician network to receive the appropriate treatment.