Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

What is a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection spread by sexual contact. There are many STIs. This FAQ focuses on chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. These STIs can cause long-term health problems and problems during pregnancy. Having an STI also increases the risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) if you are exposed to it.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in the United States. Chlamydia is caused by a type of bacteria, which can be passed from person to person during vaginal sex, oral sex, or anal sex. Infections can occur in the mouth, reproductive organs, urethra, and rectum. In women, the most commonplace for infection is the cervix (the opening of the uterus).

What are the risk factors for chlamydia?

The following factors increase the risk of getting chlamydia:

  • Having a new sex partner
  • Having more than one sex partner
  • Having a sex partner who has more than one sex partner
  • Having sex with someone who has an STI
  • Having an STI now or in the past
  • Not using condoms consistently when not in a mutually monogamous relationship
  • Exchanging sex for money or drugs

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Chlamydia usually does not cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may show up between a few days and several weeks after infection. They may be very mild and can be mistaken for a urinary tract or vaginal infection. The most common symptoms in women include

  • yellow discharge from the vagina or urethra
  • painful or frequent urination
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • rectal bleeding, discharge, or pain

How do I get tested for chlamydia?

In women, a chlamydia test can be done on a urine sample or on samples taken with a swab from the vagina, mouth, throat, rectum, or the area around the cervix. You can do a self-swab of your vagina or rectum in the office of your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn). A yearly screening test is recommended for women younger than 25 and for women 25 and older with risk factors for chlamydia.

How is chlamydia treated?

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. Your sex partners also need to be tested and treated. This includes anyone you have had sex with in the past 60 days or your last sex partner. Be sure to take all of your medicine as directed.
Chlamydia can be passed to sex partners even during treatment. You should avoid sexual contact until you have finished treatment, and your sex partners should as well. You also should be retested for chlamydia 3 months after treatment.

What complications are associated with chlamydia?

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to long-term health problems and affect your ability to get pregnant.

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STI in the United States. Gonorrhea and chlamydia often occur together. Gonorrhea also is caused by bacteria that can be passed to a partner during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What are the risk factors for gonorrhea?

The risk factors for gonorrhea are the same as the risk factors for chlamydia (see above).

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea often causes no symptoms or only very mild symptoms. Women with gonorrhea may think they have a minor urinary tract or vaginal infection. Symptoms include

  • yellow vaginal discharge
  • painful or frequent urination
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • rectal bleeding, discharge, or pain

How do I get tested for gonorrhea?

Testing for gonorrhea is similar to testing for chlamydia. In women, tests for gonorrhea can be done on a urine sample or on samples taken with a swab from the vagina, mouth, throat, rectum, or the area around the cervix. A yearly screening test is recommended for women younger than 25 and for women 25 and older with risk factors for gonorrhea.

How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea is treated with two kinds of antibiotics. The recommended treatment is an injection of one antibiotic followed by a single pill of another antibiotic. If the injection is not available, you can take two types of antibiotic pills. This treatment also is effective against chlamydia. Your sex partners also need to be tested for gonorrhea and treated.

What complications are associated with gonorrhea?

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to the same long-term health complications as chlamydia, including PID, as well as disseminated gonococcal infection.

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