Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 1.6 million cases in 2021. Because many people don’t experience symptoms and don’t seek testing as a result, the actual number of cases is likely much larger.
People who are sexually active can transmit chlamydia vaginally, orally, or anally.
Testing for chlamydia is done through a urine sample or a specimen swab from the vagina. You can get tested at a doctor’s office or at a health clinic, which may offer free or low cost testing, without insurance. You can also test yourself with an at-home chlamydia test.
If you test positive, chlamydia is easily treatable with oral antibiotics.
Chlamydia is an STI contracted through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus.
The bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis, can be transferred without ejaculation or even penetration during sexual contact. For example, the bacteria can be transferred by sharing sex toys that have not been properly cleaned or covered with a new condom with each use. Or, getting semen or vaginal fluid in one’s eye can also spread infection.
Teens and young adults have the highest rates of chlamydia. These age groups account for two-thirds of new cases, according to data from the CDC.
The CDC also suggests young women are more prone to the infection, with 1 in 20 women between 14 and 24 years old estimated to have chlamydia.
However, men can also contract, carry, and transmit the disease to others.
One of the most significant dangers of chlamydia is its ability to go undetected. It might not cause visible side effects, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Its hidden threat can have lasting impacts.
The disease can affect people with vaginas by causing pelvic inflammatory disease, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancies, and potentially causing infertility. For those with penises, it can cause epididymitis and infertility.
Pregnant people with chlamydia can transmit the infection to their baby during vaginal delivery. Chlamydia in babies can result in conditions like pneumonia and conjunctivitis.
When symptoms are present, they can often take several weeks to appear.
Those with female reproductive systems who are experiencing chlamydia may notice:
abnormal vaginal discharge
pain during sex
a low grade fever
spotting between periods
a burning sensation when urinating
abnormal discharge that’s yellowish and has an unusual odor
Those with male reproductive systems who are experiencing chlamydia may notice:
discharge from their penis
Chlamydia’s symptoms overlap with gonorrhea, so you may not know which condition you have. It’s also possible to have both conditions at once.
To reduce your risk of chlamydia, it is important to use barrier methods, such as condoms, when you have sex. If you’re sexually active, undergoing regular STI testing can also identify an infection early and prevent it from being transmitted to sexual partners.
Yes. At-home tests for chlamydia require a vaginal, throat, or anal swab, or a urine sample, just like you would give in a doctor’s office. Testing at home may even be quicker, in some instances, than waiting for in-person testing. At-home urine tests may be the easiest to use.
There are some rapid tests available for chlamydia that you can use at home. These tests provide positive/negative test results within around 15 minutes. They typically don’t include the option of speaking with a healthcare professional.
If you test positive, you’ll need to see a healthcare professional for follow-up testing and treatment.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections that are treated with antibiotics, which effectively “kill” the bacteria that causes these conditions to occur.
Chlamydia is treated with oral antibiotics that you’ll take for several days or longer. Gonorrhea is treated with injected antibiotics that are usually given one time.
These treatments do not prevent STIs from occurring.
Chlamydia is a serious condition that can have long-term effects on the health of you and your sexual partners. STIs should be treated with seriousness and transparency.
It’s wise to get tested regularly when you’re sexually active to keep you and your partner(s) safe.
Getting tested is both healthy and responsible. An in-office test is a reliable way to learn if you have chlamydia or other STIs. But at-home testing is an accessible and fairly accurate way to get the answers you need.
Protect your health and peace of mind by making a plan to get tested in person or with a private at-home test.
Last medically reviewed on November 1, 2023
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