Chlamydia is now the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It affects more men and women than syphilis and gonorrhea combined. In fact, chances are that persons who have had these other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are playing host to chlamydia as well. Chlamydia can also accelerate the appearance of AIDS symptoms for persons infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

Symptoms of chlamydia in men include burning or discomfort when urinating, a whitish discharge from the tip of the penis and pain in the scrotum. In women, symptoms include slight yellowish-green vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, a frequent need to urinate and pain when urinating. There can also be chronic abdominal pain and bleeding between menstrual periods.

These symptoms can, however, be so mild that they often go unnoticed. It is estimated that 75% of women and 25% of men who have chlamydia have no symptoms until complications set in. If they do appear, they usually do so two to four weeks after being infected. The only sure way to know whether or not you have chlamydia is to be tested. Doctors recommend that sexually active people who are not involved in a long-term, monogamous relationship be tested periodically. You should be aware, though, that the most reliable test for chlamydia is a tissue culture that is expensive and not widely available. For that reason, many doctors use a simpler slide test instead. A small amount of fluid is collected from the infected site with a cotton swab. Sometimes the results are available the same day of the test.

Anyone who has chlamydia should be treated with oral antibiotics such as tetracycline, erythromycin, or azithromycin. Doctors will treat the infected sexual partner even if he or she doesn’t show any symptoms. Sex should be avoided until treatment is completed in both the person affected and in their sex partners. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause a variety of serious problems including infection and inflammation of the prostate and surrounding structures in men and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility in women. Infants born to mothers who have chlamydia are likely to develop pneumonia or serious eye infections in the first several months of life as well as permanent lung damage later one.

Questions to Ask

For men: Do you have these problems:

  • A whitish discharge from the penis, burning or discomfort when urinating, pain and swelling in the scrotum?

Yes: See Doctor


For women: Do you have these problems?

  • A yellowish-green vaginal discharge
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods

Yes: See Doctor


Does your sexual partner have or do you suspect they might have a sexually transmitted disease? Does he/she have multiple sex partners?
Yes: Call Doctor


Do you want to rule out the presence of chlamydia because you are considering a new sexual relationship, planning to get married or pregnant or for any other reason?
Yes: Call Doctor


Self-Care Prevention Tips

  • There’s only one way to guarantee you’ll never get a sexually transmitted disease: Never have sex.
  • Limiting your sexual activity to one person your entire life is a close second, provided your partner is also monogamous and does not have a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Avoid sexual contact with persons whose health status and practices are not known.
  • Don’t have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (except in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected with an STD).
  • Avoid sex if either partner has signs and symptoms of a genital tract infection.
  • Discuss a new partner’s sexual history with him or her before beginning a sexual relationship. (Be aware, though, that persons are not always honest about their sexual history.)
  • Latex condoms can reduce the spread of sexual diseases when used properly and carefully and for every sex act. They do not eliminate the risk entirely.
  • Both women and men should carry latex condoms and insist that they be used every time they have sexual relations.
  • Using spermicidal foams, jellies, creams (especially those that contain Nonoxynol-9) and a diaphragm can offer additional protection when used with a condom. Use water-based lubricants such as K-Y Brand Jelly. Don’t use oil-based or “petroleum” ones such as Vaseline. They can damage latex condoms.
  • Wash the genitals with soap and water before and after sexual intercourse.
  • Seek treatment for a sexually transmitted disease if you know your sex partner is infected.
  • Ask your doctor to check for STDs every six months if you have multiple sex partners even if you don’t have any symptoms.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021