In a world where misinformation is rampant, it’s essential to arm yourself with accurate knowledge
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis and transmitted during sexual activity. Chlamydia is a common STD that often leads to asymptomatic transmission. There are many statistics and facts about chlamydia, but many people believe myths that chlamydia isn’t that serious.
Untreated chlamydia is a precursor to many urogenital infections and conditions that can lead to chronic UTIs, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and reactive arthritis. It is also one of a few STDs that can transmit from mother to child during vaginal childbirth, sometimes leading to neonatal conjunctivitis (pink eye) or infant pneumonia.
If you receive treatment for chlamydia, you can become reinfected any time you engage in sexual contact with someone carrying the bacteria. Infection by another STD like chlamydia can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to contracting HIV if exposed.
All About Chlamydia
Since chlamydia infection is often asymptomatic, most people don’t realize they could transmit it to their sex partners because they haven’t been tested. An infected person might wait too long to get tested and suffer permanent damage to their reproductive, urinary, rectal, or esophageal systems. What causes chlamydia, and what are the symptoms and risk factors?
Most chlamydia infections are asymptomatic. When an infected person does show signs of infection by this inflammatory disease, symptoms can include:
- Difficulty urinating or painful urination
- Discharge from the penis or vagina
- Unusual vaginal bleeding at irregular times, such as after sex or between periods
- Testicular pain
- Sore throat (in throat infection)
- Conjunctivitis (in eye infection)
- Rectal pain or bleeding (in rectal infection)
Many symptoms depend on the location of the infection. While most chlamydia infections occur around the genitals, anal or oral sex can lead to infections of the rectum or throat. Chlamydia can also spread to other areas through contact, such as if an infected person didn’t wash their hands in the bathroom then rubbed their eye.
Young people, particularly women, are more susceptible to contracting chlamydia. Chlamydia bacteria thrive in warm moist environments such as the vagina, throat, or rectum. Individuals at a higher risk of infection include those who:
- Perform oral sex on their partner(s)
- Have multiple sex partners
- Don’t use barrier method protection like condoms or dental dams
- Don’t get tested regularly for STDs
- Don’t use protection during same-sex sexual contact
- Were assigned female at birth (AFAB)
- Are of Black non-Hispanic descent
Younger people have higher rates of transmission, with over half of new chlamydia cases occurring in people between the ages of 15 and 24. The CDC recommends that young AFAB people under 25 test annually for chlamydia if they are sexually active, that AFAB people over 25 with multiple sex partners test regularly, and that AMAB people regularly test if they have sex with other AMAB people.
Transmission occurs with contact through sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Pregnant people can also transmit chlamydia to their children during vaginal birth. Good screening programs are essential to catch chlamydia early in the infection, or an infected person could spread it to multiple partners before realizing they have the infection.
Five Facts About Chlamydia
There are many misconceptions about chlamydia and complications from chlamydia. Learn more facts about chlamydia and myths about the disease below.
Myth 1: Chlamydia Isn’t That Bad
The myth likely began because numerous people with chlamydia are asymptomatic, so they don’t believe having chlamydia is a big deal. However, the truth is that untreated chlamydia can lead to serious health complications.
What can chlamydia cause if left untreated? Chlamydia can lead to a host of problems, including:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Prostate gland infection
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Infant pneumonia
- Newborn conjunctivitis
- Reactive arthritis
Other complications can include abdominal pain, smelly vaginal discharge, and birth complications such as early labor and low birth weight.
Myth 2: You Can’t Get Chlamydia from Oral Sex
While you may not be able to get pregnant from oral sex, you can transmit any STD from oral sex if you don’t use appropriate protection like a condom or dental dam.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection the same as strep throat (caused by Streptococcus pyogenes). If you’ve ever had strep throat, you know it can be unpleasant to have an inflammatory bacterial infection in your throat or around your tonsils.
Myth 3: Douching Will Keep Your Vagina Healthy and Prevent Infection
While many women feel refreshed after using a douche, the negative stigma around natural vaginal smells or tastes is dangerous.
The vagina is a biosphere of healthy bacteria and yeast. Douching removes healthy microbes, increasing the pH of the vagina and removing the protective mucosal coating of vaginal fluid. Using a douche can leave your vaginal microbiome vulnerable to infection from bad bacteria like chlamydia and dry out your mucus membranes, allowing chlamydia to penetrate the cell walls and enter your system more easily.
Myth 4: You Don’t Need a Condom to Prevent Chlamydia
Some people think that pulling out can prevent not only pregnancy but also STD transmission. They’re wrong on both counts. “Pre-cum” often contains live sperm that can lead to pregnancy, and genital contact is enough to transmit many STDs, including chlamydia.
Using a condom during sexual activity with an AMAB person or a dental dam during oral sex with an AFAB person can prevent the transmission of chlamydia between partners. Protecting yourself now can help you protect future partners from contracting chlamydia from you.
Myth 5: Men Don’t Need to Get Tested for Chlamydia
The CDC recommends that anyone who receives sexual penetration during sexual activities gets tested regularly for chlamydia. While this includes AMAB partners of the same sex, this doesn’t usually include AMAB people who don’t receive penetration during sex.
Despite the CDC guidelines, there’s an obvious logical flaw. If the people receiving penetration can get chlamydia from these acts, who is transmitting the infection? The fact is that anyone engaging in sexual activity should get a 10-panel STD test at regular intervals to diagnose and treat infections quickly.
Getting Tested for Chlamydia
Usually, the only way to know if you have chlamydia is with a test. You can get a rapid STD test at a local clinic that can give you results in just a couple of days. You can test just for chlamydia with a urine sample or get a 10-panel STD test that also tests for hepatitis, herpes, syphilis, and HIV.
Learn the facts about chlamydia testing below to determine whether you should get a single chlamydia test or a full screening for the most common STDs.
When Should You Get a Chlamydia Test?
When should you test for a chlamydia infection? You should test at least once a year if you’re sexually active under the age of 25. You should also test annually if you have multiple partners or if your partner has multiple partners.
Other times to consider testing for chlamydia include when:
- You cheated or suspect your partner might have cheated
- You have a new sex partner
- You might have had contact with chlamydia
- You want accurate results quickly
- You want to pre-screen for insurance
What to Expect During Your Chlamydia Test
Chlamydia testing relies on two common methods: a urine sample or a swab. With a urine test, the lab analyzes a urine sample to look for the presence of the bacteria that causes chlamydia.
During a swab test, a clinician will take a sample on a swab from the affected area, including the throat, vagina, anus, or cervix. Doctors often recommend swab tests after an initial consultation and some probing questions about your sexual history. Using this information, the doctor determines the best place to get the sample.
You can also take an at-home test for chlamydia if there is no clinic available near you. At-home tests have a higher risk of failure because you’re not a trained professional collecting the sample. However, if it is your only option, it’s likely a better choice than not testing.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you receive a positive result from your chlamydia test, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Usually, a single dose is enough to clear the infection and get a negative result on a follow-up test.
If you have a sexual partner or partners, inform your doctor. Some states implement expedited partner therapy (EPT), which is when your doctor gives you a second prescription to bring to your partner for simultaneous treatment. You and your partner should not have sex while taking your antibiotics, and you should re-test in three months.
Visit a Rapid STD Testing Clinic Near You
Get more facts about chlamydia when you contact one of our 2,500 Rapid STD Testing clinics. We offer fast and confidential STD testing in all 50 states and D.C. Use our location tool to find a lab near you quickly when you enter your ZIP code.
If your STD test was negative, but you’re still worried, we can answer your questions about your risks. We also offer same-day STD testing for people who need results now. Learn more about our services at Rapid STD Testing and get tested today.