How to treat chlamydia: what the chlamydia treatment process is like
Medically reviewed on November 22, 2022 by Karen Janson, MS, MD. 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.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in the United States, and millions of people contract it every year.1 It can be spread through sexual intercourse or sexual contact, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex, but it can also be passed from a pregnant person to their baby during childbirth .
If you’re experiencing chlamydia-like symptoms or tested positive for the STI, chlamydia can be treated with a round of antibiotics. By treating chlamydia early on, you may be able to avoid developing the more serious symptoms that can result from an untreated bacterial infection.
Below, we’ll explain how to treat chlamydia. We’ll also answer some commonly asked questions about this STI.
What are the treatment options for chlamydia?
Chlamydia is typically treated with a short round of antibiotics. This treatment protocol has a 95% cure rate .
The type of antibiotics your healthcare provider prescribes will depend on your age, allergies, medications, and pregnancy status. Some common options include :
Doxycycline – Doxycycline has been shown to be the most effective treatment for chlamydia. In turn, it’s the go-to antibiotic of choice for chlamydia unless you have an allergy to it or are pregnant. According to the CDC, the recommended chlamydia treatment regime for adolescents and adults is to take 100 mg of Doxycycline twice a day for seven days .
Azithromycin – Azithromycin is another popular antibiotic that may be used to treat chlamydia. Unlike Doxycycline, it’s generally safe for pregnant people to take. Patients who are prescribed this antibiotic are typically instructed to take one gram orally in a single dose.
Amoxicillin – Another antibiotic option for pregnant people or people with certain allergies is Amoxicillin. This antibiotic is typically prescribed in doses of 500 mg that must be taken orally three times a day for seven days.
Levofloxacin – Lastly, Levofloxacin may be prescribed to treat chlamydia. The recommended protocol for Levofloxacin is to take 500 mg orally once a day for seven days.
Regardless of the type of antibiotic you’re prescribed, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to a tee. Missing doses or failing to complete your full prescription may harm the effectiveness of your treatment, even if your symptoms go away.
Do these antibiotics have side effects?
As with all types of antibiotics, antibiotics for chlamydial infection can cause mild side effects, such as :
Vaginal itching or discharge
Typically, these side effects should subside once you stop taking the antibiotics.
Note: In rare cases, antibiotics can have more severe side effects, including allergic reactions, heart issues, adverse blood reactions, or seizures. If you experience any of these rare side effects, you should call 911 right away.
Can you purchase chlamydia treatment over the counter?
The antibiotics used to treat chlamydia are only available if you have a prescription. In turn, you won’t be able to get them over the counter.
Can you have sex while undergoing chlamydia treatment?
While you’re being treated for chlamydia, you may still be able to pass on the bacterial infection to others. In turn, you should avoid having sex until you’ve cleared the chlamydial infection.
If you still have symptoms after completing your treatment, you should schedule another appointment with your healthcare provider.
How long does chlamydia last?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can last for varying lengths of time depending on whether it is treated or not. So, how long does chlamydia last? If treated promptly with antibiotics, chlamydia can usually be completely cured within a few weeks. It is important to get tested and treated if you suspect you have chlamydia, as early detection and treatment can help prevent long-term health problems and protect your sexual health .
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Most people don’t experience any symptoms when they have chlamydia. In fact, only 10% of men and up to 30% of women report symptomatic cases . This is one reason why regular STI screenings are so important.
The small portion of people who develop symptoms may experience :
Pain or burning sensation during urination
Lower abdominal pain
Yellow or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
Bleeding between periods
Milky penile discharge
Pain, bleeding, or discharge from the anus
Itchiness and redness of the eyes
These symptoms typically set in a few weeks or months after the initial exposure.
What should you do after you get diagnosed with chlamydia?
As soon as you receive a positive test result for chlamydia, you should inform any sex partner you’ve been with within the past 60 days of your diagnosis. This way, they can get tested and treated too.
If any of your sex partners test positive, you should abstain from having sex with them until they have completed treatment. Chlamydia re-infections post-treatment are rarely due to antibiotic failure—more commonly, people get infected again by having sex with someone else who hasn’t yet cleared their chlamydia infection .
Once you’ve completed your treatment, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures to ensure you don’t contract chlamydia again. Here are some steps you can take:
Don’t have unprotected sex: use a barrier method during sexual activity, such as a condom or diaphragm
Limit your number of sex partners
Don’t share your sex toys with anyone else
What happens if chlamydia goes untreated?
As we mentioned earlier, symptomless chlamydia (also known as silent- chlamydia) is very common. Some people may have chlamydia for several months or years without knowing it. An untreated chlamydia infection can lead to serious health problems, including :
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – PID is a painful condition that can permanently damage a female’s reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tubes. Some complications of PID include infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain .
Epididymis – Males may develop epididymis, which is inflammation of a tube that’s located behind the testes that hold sperm. Epididymis from an untreated chlamydia infection can also affect fertility and may cause long-term pain and swelling .
Premature labor and birth complications – People who become pregnant with chlamydia are at greater risk of giving birth to their babies early, which may lead to their babies having lower birth weights and other health issues . It’s also possible that they pass the infection on to their newborns . Infants who become infected with chlamydial infection can suffer from an eye infection and lung infection .
Reactive arthritis – A rarer health condition that can arise from untreated chlamydia is reactive arthritis . Reactive arthritis is a type of joint inflammation that develops as a reaction to an infection elsewhere in the body. Reactive arthritis most commonly affects joints within the pelvis and lower limbs. It may also cause inflammation in the urinary tract and eyelids.
Spread of the infection – If someone doesn’t know they have chlamydia, they may accidentally spread it to others.
Due to these health risks, it's important to get screened for infectious diseases like chlamydia regularly so you can get treated right away if your test comes back positive.
How to find out if you have chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be detected with a simple urine, blood, or swab test. Typically, these tests can produce results within a few days. While you can schedule a chlamydia test at your healthcare provider’s office, you can also administer some chlamydia tests at home.
Here are the recommended screening guidelines for the following subsets of people :
People under the age of 25 – The majority of people who contract chlamydia are between the ages of 15 and 24 . It’s beneficial for this demographic to get screened regularly—ideally once a year.
People over 25 who have multiple sex partners – Another risk factor for catching chlamydia or any sexually transmitted infection is having multiple sex partners . Regardless of age, people with multiple sex partners should get screened for chlamydia frequently. A good rule of thumb is to get tested for STIs after every introduction of a new sex partner.
Pregnant people – Since chlamydia poses risks during pregnancy and birth, people who become pregnant should get screened for chlamydia during their first prenatal visit . If a pregnant person tests positive for chlamydia, they should undergo treatment during pregnancy to reduce the chances of passing the infection onto their newborn . Many healthcare experts also recommend getting re-tested four weeks after treatment and once again during the third trimester near the date of delivery to make sure the chlamydia infection is gone .
People experiencing chlamydia symptoms – If you’re experiencing any symptoms of chlamydia, you should get screened as soon as possible so you can pursue prompt treatment.
Chlamydia screening from the comfort of home
If you want to prevent the serious health consequences of contracting chlamydia, the best thing you can do is get tested regularly. Everlywell makes chlamydia testing easy.
The Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test allows you to screen for both chlamydia and gonorrhea at the same time. Once you collect your urine sample with the at-home kit, all you have to do is ship it back to the lab and wait for your results (prepaid shipping is included with the kit). We’ll have it tested at a CLIA-certified lab. You can expect to receive your physician-reviewed test results in a few days.
If your test results come back abnormal, we can connect you with a board-certified physician who can guide you through the next steps and prescribe treatment, if appropriate.