Information for Patients
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.
How do you get chlamydia?
You can get chlamydia during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the infection. A woman can also pass chlamydia to her baby during childbirth.
If you've had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can get re-infected if you have unprotected sex with someone who has it.
Who is at risk of getting chlamydia?
Chlamydia is more common in young people, especially young women. You are more likely to get it if you don't consistently use a condom, or if you have multiple partners.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia doesn't usually cause any symptoms. So you may not realize that you have it. People with chlamydia who have no symptoms can still pass the disease to others. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner.
Symptoms in women include
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, which may have a strong smell
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Pain during intercourse
If the infection spreads, you might get lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, nausea, or fever.
Symptoms in men include
- Discharge from your penis
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Burning or itching around the opening of your penis
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common)
If the chlamydia infects the rectum (in men or women), it can cause rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
There are lab tests to diagnose chlamydia. Your health care provider may ask you to provide a urine sample. For women, providers sometimes use (or ask you to use) a cotton swab to get a sample from your vagina to test for chlamydia.
Who should be tested for chlamydia?
You should go to your health provider for a test if you have symptoms of chlamydia, or if you have a partner who has a sexually transmitted disease. Pregnant women should get a test when they go to their first prenatal visit.
People at higher risk should get checked for chlamydia every year:
- Sexually active women 25 and younger
- Older women who have new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted disease
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
What are the complications of chlamydia?
In women, an untreated infection can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. This can lead to long-term pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have had chlamydia infections more than once are at higher risk of serious reproductive health complications.
Men often don't have health problems from chlamydia. Sometimes it can infect the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm). This can cause pain, fever, and, rarely, infertility.
Both men and women can develop reactive arthritis because of a chlamydia infection. Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens as a "reaction" to an infection in the body.
Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. It may also make it more likely for your baby to be born too early.
Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV/AIDS.
What are the treatments for chlamydia?
Antibiotics will cure the infection. You may get a one-time dose of the antibiotics, or you may need to take medicine every day for 7 days. Antibiotics cannot repair any permanent damage that the disease has caused.
To prevent spreading the disease to your partner, you should not have sex until the infection has cleared up. If you got a one-time dose of antibiotics, you should wait 7 days after taking the medicine to have sex again. If you have to take medicine every day for 7 days, you should not have sex again until you have finished taking all of the doses of your medicine.
It is common to get a repeat infection, so you should get tested again about three months after treatment.
Can chlamydia be prevented?
The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What is vaginitis?
Vaginitis, also called vulvovaginitis, is an inflammation or infection of the vagina. It can also affect the vulva, which is the external part of a woman's genitals. Vaginitis can cause itching, pain, discharge, and odor.
Vaginitis is common, especially in women in their reproductive years. It usually happens when there is a change in the balance of bacteria or yeast that are normally found in your vagina. There are different types of vaginitis, and they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What causes vaginitis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44. It happens when there is an imbalance between the "good" and "harmful" bacteria that are normally found in a woman's vagina. Many things can change the balance of bacteria, including
- Taking antibiotics
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Having unprotected sex with a new partner
- Having many sexual partners
Yeast infections (candidiasis) happen when too much candida grows in the vagina. Candida is the scientific name for yeast. It is a fungus that lives almost everywhere, including in your body. You may have too much growing in the vagina because of
- Diabetes, especially if it is not well-controlled
- Corticosteroid medicines
Trichomoniasis can also cause vaginitis. Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by a parasite.
You can also have vaginitis if you are allergic or sensitive to certain products that you use. Examples include vaginal sprays, douches, spermicides, soaps, detergents, or fabric softeners. They can cause burning, itching, and discharge.
Hormonal changes can also cause vaginal irritation. Examples are when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or when you have gone through menopause.
Sometimes you can have more than one cause of vaginitis at the same time.
What are the symptoms of vaginitis?
The symptoms of vaginitis depend on which type you have.
With BV, you may not have symptoms. You could have a thin white or gray vaginal discharge. There may be an odor, such as a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex.
Yeast infections produce a thick, white discharge from the vagina that can look like cottage cheese. The discharge can be watery and often has no smell. Yeast infections usually cause the vagina and vulva to become itchy and red.
You may not have symptoms when you have trichomoniasis. If you do have them, they include itching, burning, and soreness of the vagina and vulva. You may have burning during urination. You could also have gray-green discharge, which may smell bad.
How is the cause of vaginitis diagnosed?
To find out the cause of your symptoms, your health care provider may
- Ask you about your medical history
- Do a pelvic exam
- Look for vaginal discharge, noting its color, qualities, and any odor
- Study a sample of your vaginal fluid under a microscope
In some cases, you may need more tests.
What are the treatments for vaginitis?
The treatment depends on which type of vaginitis you have.
BV is treatable with antibiotics. You may get pills to swallow, or cream or gel that you put in your vagina. During treatment, you should use a condom during sex or not have sex at all.
Yeast infections are usually treated with a cream or with medicine that you put inside your vagina. You can buy over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections, but you need to be sure that you do have a yeast infection and not another type of vaginitis. See your health care provider if this is the first time you have had symptoms. Even if you have had yeast infections before, it is a good idea to call your health care provider before using an over-the-counter treatment.
The treatment for trichomoniasis is usually a single-dose antibiotic. Both you and your partner(s) should be treated, to prevent spreading the infection to others and to keep from getting it again.
If your vaginitis is due to an allergy or sensitivity to a product, you need to figure out which product is causing the problem. It could be a product that you started using recently. Once you figure it out, you should stop using the product.
If the cause of your vaginitis is a hormonal change, your health care provider may give you estrogen cream to help with your symptoms.
Can vaginitis cause other health problems?
It is important to treat BV and trichomoniasis, because having either of them can increase your risk for getting HIV or another sexually transmitted disease. If you are pregnant, BV or trichomoniasis can increase your risk for preterm labor and preterm birth.
Can vaginitis be prevented?
To help prevent vaginitis
- Do not douche or use vaginal sprays
- Use a condom when having sex
- Avoid clothes that hold in heat and moisture
- Wear cotton underwear