What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacteria spread during unprotected sex with an infected partner. 

Anyone can become infected but your risk is increased if you have multiple sex partners or another STD. Infection rates are higher in adolescents than in any other age group.

Signs and symptoms

Most infected people have no symptoms and do not realize they have chlamydia.

Symptoms for females can include: 

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Burning with urination
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding.

Symptoms for males can include:

  • Burning with urination
  • Discharge from the penis


Chlamydia is caused by bacteria that is spread during unprotected sex with an infected partner.

Testing and diagnosis

A common test for chlamydia can be done with a sample of your urine. The test looks for DNA from the bacteria. For females, this does not involve a pelvic exam. For males, this does not require using a swab in your penis.

Another test that can be done involves placing a cotton swab inside your cervix (females) or penis (males) for a few seconds and then sending it to a lab to look for evidence of the bacteria.


If you are treated for chlamydia, you should make sure your partner gets treated too. Even if he or she is not the one who gave you infection, you may have passed it along without knowing it.

Using condoms or other barrier contraceptives can help prevent the spread of chlamydia.


If you do not get treated for chlamydia, you may continue to have symptoms such as irregular bleeding and vaginal discharge.

Additionally, the infection can spread into the rest of your reproductive organs.

  • For females, this includes your uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease (or PID), and can be very painful, dangerous to your reproductive organs, and affect your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
  • For males, this includes the epidydimis (the tubes next to the testicle — it's where your sperm is stored) and the urethra (the tube that carries your urine).

Having a chlamydia infection increases your chances of getting other STDs, including HIV infection.

Women can spread chlamydia to their newborn babies, causing serious infections in the baby.

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