Gonorrhoea is a common sexually-transmitted infection. It may not have any symptoms, but if it’s untreated, it can lead to complications. If sexually active, it is important to get regular check-ups so it can be detected early and treated.…
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is one of the most commonly reported STIs in the US and can be spread by having vaginal, oral or anal sex.
Chlamydia can affect both men and women. It is most common in young sexually-active adults, although it is becoming increasingly common in older adults. Most people that are infected with chlamydia will not have any symptoms, while others can experience pain when urinating or having sex and/or have an abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina.
Chlamydia is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is a STI, which means that you can get it by having unprotected sex. If you are a pregnant woman with chlamydia, you can also pass the infection on to your baby during childbirth.
Anyone who is sexually active can get chlamydia, but there are some people who have a higher risk of getting the infection. You are more likely to get chlamydia if you:
- Do not practice safe sex;
- Have multiple sexual partners;
- Are a young adult, and;
- Have a past history of a STI.
Signs and symptoms
If you are infected with chlamydia, you may not have any symptoms at all. If you do get symptoms, they can be slightly different in men and women.
Men infected with chlamydia may experience:
- Pain or discomfort when urinating;
- A discharge from the penis, and;
- Swollen and sore testicles.
Women may experience:
- An unusual discharge from the vagina;
- Pain or a burning feeling when urinating;
- Pain during sex;
- Bleeding after sex;
- Bleeding between periods, and;
- Pain in the lower abdomen and fever.
Methods for diagnosis
To work out if you have chlamydia, a doctor will most likely collect a sample of your urine, or take a swab from the vagina, cervix, penis or anus. The samples are sent off to a laboratory and tested to see if the bacteria that cause chlamydia are present.
Types of treatment
If you have chlamydia, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, such as azithromycin or doxycycline, to treat the infection. A second test one or two months after treatment is usually recommended, to check that it is completely gone.
If you have chlamydia, it is possible that your sexual partner may also have it and could potentially pass it on to you again after you have finished treatment. It is recommended that your sexual partner is also tested and treated for chlamydia, if present, to reduce their risk of developing complications.
If a chlamydia infection is not treated, it can lead to some other serious health problems, including:
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease can develop in women with chlamydia. The condition occurs when the infection affects parts of the female reproductive system, which includes the uterus and fallopian tubes. This may result in fever and pain in the pelvic region. In severe cases, this can cause permanent damage and may lead to difficulty getting pregnant, or an inability to get pregnant (infertility). The more often you get chlamydia, the more likely that your fertility could be affected.
Infections in newborns
In men, a chlamydia infection can cause inflammation of the epididymis, which is the tube located next to each testicle. This condition is known as epididymitis and can cause swelling and pain in the scrotum.
Prostate gland infection
In men, a chlamydia infection can also spread to the prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system. The infection can cause a fever and chills, pain when urinating, or pain during and after sex.
If you have chlamydia, you may have an increased chance of developing a condition called reactive arthritis, which is also sometimes known as Reiter's syndrome. Symptoms include pain and swelling in the joints. This condition usually gets better with time and is unlikely to cause any permanent joint damage.
Most cases of chlamydia can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
Chlamydia can be prevented by practicing safe sex, which means using a barrier, such as a condom, when having sex. Because some people who are infected with chlamydia do not show any symptoms, getting tested regularly if you have a high risk of getting the infection may help prevent spreading it to others. To prevent chlamydia being passed on to babies during childbirth, doctors usually recommended that pregnant women get tested for chlamydia.
- HIV viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia – annual surveillance report 2014. The Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society UNSW Medicine. http://kirby.unsw.edu.au/surveillance/2014-annual-surveillance-report-hiv-viral-hepatitis-stis
- Chlamydia - Safe Sex. Accessed 29 June 2014 from http://www.couldihaveit.com.au/safesex.asp
- Chlamydia. Better Health Channel. Accessed 29 June 2014 from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Chlamydia
- House T.R.A.C. of G.P. 34 000 223 807 R. Parade 100 Wellington Melbourne E. et al. RACGP - STIs. Accessed 29 June 2014 from http://www.racgp.org.au/your-practice/guidelines/redbook/communicable-diseases/stis/
- Reactive Arthritis Diagnosis Symptoms Treatment Pain Management Exercise - Arthritis Victoria. Accessed 29 June 2014 from http://www.arthritisvic.org.au/Conditions-and-Symptoms/Reactive-Arthritis
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection. It can affect both men and women and can be passed on to others by having unprotected sex.
What causes chlamydia?
Chlamydia is caused by a type of bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. It is spread through sexual contact that includes vaginal, oral and anal sex. A pregnant woman with chlamydia can also pass the infection on to her baby during childbirth.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Most people that are infected with chlamydia will not have any symptoms. If the symptoms are present, they can include pain when urinating and an unusual discharge from the penis or vagina. Women may also experience pain during sex, bleeding after sex …
Who gets chlamydia?
Anyone who is sexually active can potentially get chlamydia. The condition can affect both men and women. People who do not practice safe sex, have multiple sexual partners or have a history of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) are more likely to get chlamydia.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
To diagnose chlamydia, a doctor will collect a sample of urine or take a swab from areas most likely to be affected by the infection. This may include the vagina, cervix, penis or anus. The samples are sent off to a laboratory and tested to see if the bacteria …
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is usually treated with antibiotics to control the bacterial infection. To prevent getting chlamydia again, it is recommended that any sexual partners also be tested and treated for chlamydia.
Is chlamydia serious?
Most cases of chlamydia will clear up with simple antibiotic treatment. In some cases, if left untreated, chlamydia infections can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and damage the reproductive system. In serious cases, chlamydia can lead to trouble getting pregnant …
Can chlamydia be prevented?
Chlamydia can be prevented by practicing safe sex, which means using a condom when having sex. Because some people who are infected with chlamydia do not show any symptoms, getting tested for chlamydia regularly if there is a high risk of infection may also help …
What is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a condition that can occur when sexually-transmitted infections affect parts of the reproductive system, including the uterus and fallopian tubes. This may result in a fever and pain in the pelvic region. In severe cases, …