Infection rates of this common sexually transmitted disease are decreasing, but young women are still disproportionately affected. It is treated with antibiotics, but resistance is becoming a concern.

Chlamydia Overview

Reviewed: May 8, 2014

Chlamydia is a common, curable, sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by bacteria. Both men and women can get chlamydia during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected partner. Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STD in the United States.

Most people infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. If it does, symptoms might include a burning feeling when you urinate or abnormal discharge from your vagina or penis.

In both men and women, chlamydia can infect the urinary tract. In women, infection of the reproductive system can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause infertility or serious problems with pregnancy. Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. In men, chlamydia can infect the epididymis, the tube that carries sperm. This can cause pain, fever, and, rarely, infertility.

A lab test can tell if you have chlamydia. Antibiotics will cure the infection. Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia. Experts recommend that sexually active women 25 and younger get a chlamydia test every year.

Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia.

Experts recommend that sexually active women 25 and younger get a chlamydia test every year.

Chlamydia Symptoms

About 70 percent of chlamydial infections have no symptoms, thereby naming it the "silent" disease.

Symptoms may not appear until several weeks after sex with an infected partner. 

  • Women with symptoms may notice an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation upon urination.
  • Symptoms in men can include discharge from the penis, a burning sensation upon urination, or testicular pain and swelling.

Chlamydia infection can also cause inflammation of your rectum and lining of your eye (conjunctivitis or "pink eye"). The bacteria can infect your throat if you have oral sexual contact with an infected partner.

Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage your reproductive system.


Chlamydia Causes

Chlamydia is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can be transmitted by oral, vaginal, or anal sexual contact with an infected partner.

Chlamydia Diagnosis

Chlamydia is easily confused with gonorrhea because the symptoms of both diseases are similar and the diseases can occur at the same time.

The most reliable ways to find out whether the infection is chlamydia are through laboratory tests.

  • A healthcare provider may collect a sample of fluid from the vagina or penis and send it to a laboratory that will look for the bacteria.
  • Another test looks for the bacteria in a urine sample and does not require a pelvic exam or swabbing of the penis. Results are usually available within 24 hours.


Living With Chlamydia


To avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, abstain from sexual contact or be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is not infected.

Correct usage of latex condoms can reduce, but does not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia.

Experts recommend sexually active women 25 and younger get tested for chlamydia every year. They also recommend an annual screening test for older women with risk factors for chlamydia (a new sex partner or many sex partners). All pregnant women should have a screening test for chlamydia.

If you notice genital symptoms like burning while urinating or have a discharge, stop having sexual intercourse and see your doctor right away.


Chlamydia Treatments

Antibiotics will cure the infection. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics such as azithromycin (taken for one day) or doxycycline (taken for 7 days).

It is important that you take all of the prescribed antibiotic, even after symptoms go away. If symptoms do not go away within 1 or 2 weeks after finishing your antibiotics, see your health care provider.

Your partner(s) should be tested and treated, if necessary.

You should not have sex until treatment is completed.


Chlamydia Prognosis

Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. Take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection.

  • When taken properly it will stop the infection and could decrease your chances of having complications later on.
  • Do not share your medication for chlamydia with anyone.

Repeat infection with chlamydia is common. You should be tested again about three months after you are treated, even if your sex partner(s) was treated. 


Twenty to forty percent of women with chlamydial infections, that are not treated correctly, may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization.

  • Researchers estimate that more than 75,000 women each year become infertile because of PID.

In men, untreated chlamydia may lead to pain or swelling in the scrotal area. Although complications in men are not common, infection could cause pain, fever, and sterility.

Complications in newborns

A baby who is exposed to Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria during delivery may develop an eye infection or pneumonia. Doctors can treat both conditions with antibiotics.

  • Symptoms of an eye infection, called conjunctivitis or "pink eye," include discharge in the eye and swollen eyelids and usually develop within the first 10 days of life.
  • Symptoms of pneumonia, including a cough that gets worse and congestion, and often develops within 3 to 6 weeks of birth.

Because of these risks to the newborn, many doctors recommend getting tested for chlamydia if you are pregnant.