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Protect Yourself Against Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States, according to the CDC. Yet, many people don't know about it. For public health officials, stopping its spread is a priority. Fortunately, you can prevent this disease.

Many people with chlamydia don't have symptoms. Women especially are unlikely to have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may notice them as soon as one week after you are exposed to the disease. Symptoms, if present, include pain or burning when you urinate and a discharge from the vagina or penis. Women may have abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as spotting between periods or heavier periods.

Mild symptoms

Symptoms can be so mild that you don't notice them. Even so, the disease does not go away without treatment. If you don't get treatment, you can have complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, the tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, and infertility.

Consider these facts:

  • More than 2 million teens and adults under age 40 are infected with chlamydia.  

  • About one-third of women inadequately treated for chlamydia can also get PID. PID is a serious infection of a woman's reproductive organs. Each year, PID makes 100,000 women infertile.

  • Chlamydia can increase the risk of tubal, or ectopic, pregnancy, which can be life-threatening.

  • A baby born to a woman who has chlamydia may develop pneumonia or an eye infection.

  • Although rare, men can develop complications. These include swelling in the scrotum and infertility.

Protect yourself

You can get chlamydia by having sex with someone who has it. You increase your risk if you have sex without using a condom. Your risk is also higher if you have more than one partner. If you have sex, correctly using a condom can decrease your risk.

Having a screening test can help prevent the spread of chlamydia because it allows for prompt treatment. The CDC recommends a chlamydia test for any woman who answers "yes" to one of these questions:

  • Are you under age 25 and sexually active?

  • Have you had a new sex partner within the past 90 days?

  • Have you had more than one sex partner within the past 90 days?

  • Have you not used a condom each time you had sex?

If you are infected, get treated, and tell your partner. He or she needs a test, too. If your partner tests positive, he or she will need to complete antibiotic treatment. You should not have sex until you have both completed treatment. 

Chlamydia is easy to treat. Several antibiotic treatments are effective. As little as one dose of a certain antibiotic can kill the bacteria. Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. Some antibiotics should not be used in pregnant women.