What is Chlamydia?

  Chlamydia (cla-MID-ee-uh) is the nation’s most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection and the nation’s leading cause of infertility.


  • Chlamydia is spread by direct sexual contact.
  • People usually do not realize they have the disease because symptoms are very mild or do not appear at all. As a result, they may not seek treatment until serious complications occur.


  • Symptoms may appear several days to several weeks after exposure.
  • When symptoms are present, women may suffer itching and burning in the genital area, vaginal discharge, dull abdominal pain and bleeding between menstrual periods.
  • Men may experience painful urination and watery discharge from the penis.


  • If left untreated in women, the infection can spread from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, which may become blocked with scar tissue, resulting in infertility.
  • Chlamydia is believed to be the major cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the entire female reproductive system.
  • Chlamydia can also be passed from a woman to her child during birth, causing pneumonia and eye infections.
  • In men, chlamydia is believed to be the major cause of nongonococcal urethritis (NGU), an infection of the urinary tract which, if left untreated, can lead to inflammation of the testicles and sterility.


  • A clinician must perform a chlamydia test. This involves taking a specimen from the genital area, a simple procedure. You may also ask if the test can be done through urinalysis.
  • Routine chlamydia testing is recommended for individuals with the following characteristics:
    • Women who use birth control pills and not condoms
    • Having a new sex partner within two months
    • A history of more than one sex partner
    • A history of sexually transmitted infections


  • If the test is positive, you and your sexual partner should be treated with antibiotics. Avoid sex until the treatment is completed.


  • If properly used, condoms provide good protection against chlamydia. For more information on condoms, learn more on this page: Condoms.
  • Know your partner. If you are unsure of your partner’s contacts outside your relationship, insist that a condom is used during oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
  • If you and your partner have other sexual contacts, you should have regular examinations.


Adapted from:

Sexual Health Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Contraception