Women and Chlamydia
How is chlamydia transmitted from person to person?
Probably the most common mode of transmission is through vaginal sex--sexual intercourse. But it is possible to get it from anal sex and oral sex.
What factors might put a person at risk for chlamydia?
The most important thing is having sex without using a condom. The more sex partners you have, the more likely it is that you're going to come into contact with chlamydia. And what we call concurrent partnerships, where you're having sex with someone who's also having sex with other people. Having sex with more than one person at a time increases the odds that the infection can be passed between people.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Most chlamydia infections in both men and women have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, in men there can be burning with urination or a discharge from the penis, or burning or pain around the urethra--the opening to the penis. In women, symptoms can include vaginal discharge, and perhaps some slight bleeding or spotting after sex. But often these are nonspecific symptoms that may occur from a variety of infections.
Do I need to get tested for chlamydia?
We recommend that all sexually active women aged 25 and under get tested every year for chlamydia, whether or not they have symptoms. We also recommend chlamydia screening for women over 25 who are at increased risk for chlamydia -- for example, if they have a new sex partner or multiple sex partners. The main reason for this is that women are the ones who have the worst consequences of a chlamydia infection. Women benefit the most from getting tested and treated because we can prevent these long-term complications.
We don't recommend routine screening for men. In men, any long-term complications are extremely rare.
What tests are used to diagnose chlamydia?
There are several ways to test for chlamydia. Usually it's a very easy thing to do. The test can be done using a urine sample or it can be done during a routine pelvic exam where the clinician collects a swab either from the cervix or from the vagina. Patients can collect the specimen themselves with something called a vaginal swab. Usually the results take a few days to a week to come back.
A chlamydia test isn't automatically done at the time that a Pap test is done. Many physicians will do it at the same time, but it's important for women to ask their doctor – sexually active women aged 25 and under should make sure that they're getting a chlamydia test every year and not just assume it's being done when they have their annual pelvic exam or Pap test.
How is chlamydia treated?