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Chlamydia

Despite its colorful name, chlamydia is not a flower!  It is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection on university campuses. Approximately 2.8 million new cases are reported in the United States each year. Screening tests for chlamydia along with other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are recommended as part of your general health maintenance if you are sexually active, regardless of your gender identity or who you have sex with.

Low-cost chlamydia screenings at Hall Health

If you are a student, you may drop in to see a Consulting Nurse and request an order for a chlamydia test, which is done with a urine specimen. There is a lab fee, but there is no charge for this visit if you are currently registered as a UW Student.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection spread through sexual contact that can occur without symptoms and often goes undiagnosed.

  • 9 out of 10 women have no symptoms
  • 6 out of 10 men have no symptoms

Chlamydia can easily be treated with antibiotics when diagnosed through screening tests.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

If symptoms occur they may include:

  • Abnormal discharge from penis or vagina
  • Burning or pain while urinating
  • Painful vaginal intercourse
  • Bleeding in between menstrual periods
  • Lower abdominal pain or back pain among women

What happens if I don't get tested and treated for chlamydia?

Women:

  • Chlamydia infections can spread to reproductive organs in women causing abdominal pain associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain, scarring in the fallopian tubes, and possible infertility.
  • Women with untreated chlamydia infections are at an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery or a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy.

Men:

  • Chlamydia infections in men can cause pain and swelling in the testicles or an infection in the prostate which can cause pain and possible infertility.

How does someone get chlamydia?

  • You can get chlamydia by having sex with someone who has it. "Having sex" means having anal sex or vaginal sex, regardless of the biological sex of your partner.
  • If you are a pregnant woman who has chlamydia, you can pass the infection to your baby.

Without recognizable symptoms, patients do not seek medical attention, yet they continue to infect others, and may allow their own infection to become more serious.

How can I find out if I have chlamydia?

See a health care provider for an exam and tests. Chlamydia testing can be done through samples from the genital area as well as from a concentrated urine test for both women and men.

How is chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia can be treated and cured with antibiotics.

  • Finish all of the medicine to be sure you are cured.
  • Do not share your medicine with anyone.  You need all of it.

It is very important that you take all the prescribed antibiotics and do not have sex until you and your sexual partner(s) have taken all antibiotics as prescribed and waited an additional 7 days after finishing the antibiotic treatment.

If you still have symptoms after treatment, see your provider.

You should get tested again 3 months after you finish your treatment. This is especially important if you are not sure if your partner was also treated.

In Washington State, chlamydia is reportable to the Health Department. The Health Department may contact you by phone to be certain that you and your partner have had adequate treatment.

How can I lower my risk for chlamydia?

The surest way to prevent chlamydia is not to have sex.  The second surest way is to have sex only with someone who is not infected and who has sex only with you.

Condoms can reduce your risk of getting chlamydia if used correctly (in place before any sexual contact) every single time you have sex.

Washing the genitals or urinating after sex will NOT prevent any STI.

When should I be tested?

Women who have sex with men:

You should be tested for chlamydia at least once a year if you are:

  • 25 or younger and you are sexually active
  • Older than 25 and you are having sex with more than one partner
  • Older than 25 and you have a new partner.
  • Pregnant.

Women who only have sex with women:

While STIs like chlamydia are less likely to be trasmitted between women, it does happen rarely.  Talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested.

Men who only have sex with women:

See a doctor if you notice a discharge or feel a burning around your penis.

Men who have sex with men:

See your doctor once every 12 months for testing if you've had anal or oral sex in the last year.

If I have chlamydia, what does that mean for my partner?

  • Your partner may have chlamydia, too.
  • Tell your recent sex partners, so they can get tested and treated.
  • Avoid having sex until you've both finished your treatment, so you don't re-infect each other.

Can I get chlamydia again after I've been treated?

Yes, you can get chlamydia again.  You can get it from an untreated partner or a new partner.

Protect yourself and your partner.

  • Be sure to tell your recent sex partners, so they can get tested too.
  • Talk openly and honestly with your partner about chlamydia and other STIs.

Getting help

Read Hall Health's article on how to tell your partner you have an STD.

Schedule an appointment with Hall Health for testing.

If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.

Additional information

Public Health-Seattle & King County's website on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender health

CDC's factsheet on chlamydia

 

Authored by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff, January 2014