What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease – and it's on the rise, especially among young women. Health officials believe that some 4 million people are infected with the bacteria.*
Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis, that can be passed from person to person during unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex...even if the tongue, penis or sex toy doesn't fully penetrate the anus or vagina. The bacteria attacks the mucous membranes it comes in contact with, including inside the penis, vagina, anus and throat. It's also possible for an infected mother to transmit chlamydia to her baby in vaginal childbirth, potentially causing serious infection.
The good news is that chlamydia is easily treated and curable with antibiotics. Left untreated, however, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems down the road, including infertility, and increase your risk of getting other STDs, like HIV. Data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that 10-15% of untreated chlamydia cases result in Pelvic inflammatory Disease (PID), which can lead to infertility. Some 750,000 PID cases are diagnosed each year in the United States... not to mention, medical costs of chlamydia, including diagnosis and treatment of associated infertility, are more than $701 million annually.
Chlamydia spreads easily...if you have it, your sexual partner probably does, too. You should both get tested and treated at the same time so that you don't re-infect one another...or anyone else.
Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, November 2011.
Lisa Oldson, MD
"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."