Chlamydia Facts for Teens
What is chlamydia, and why should I care about it?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by a type of bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Both women and men can get it by having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. It can also be spread from a woman to her fetus during birth, and rarely, from the hand to the eye and during unprotected oral sex. Each year, more than three million people of all ages become infected with chlamydia. Untreated chlamydia can lead to serious consequences for your health, including infertility. Infertility makes it extremely difficult to ever have a baby.
How can I protect myself?
You can avoid getting chlamydia the same way that you reduce your risk of getting other STDs — by abstaining from the types of sex play that transmit infections, or by practicing safer sex if you're sexually active. Condoms greatly reduce the risk of chlamydia during vaginal and anal sex. For safer oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis or a Glyde dam to cover the vulva.
How do I know if I have it?
That's the tough part. Most people who have chlamydia — about 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men — have no symptoms. If symptoms do show up, women might have abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, or pain during intercourse or urination. Men sometimes have discharge from the penis, pain or burning while urinating, or swollen or inflamed testicles.
The only way to know for sure if you have chlamydia is to get tested at your health care provider's office. She or he will give you a physical examination and might take a urine sample, examine cervical discharge, or test cells from the genitals or anus.
If I have chlamydia, what do I do about it?
Chlamydia is completely curable! If you're diagnosed with it, your health care provider will probably prescribe an antibiotic. Make sure that you take the antibiotic exactly as directed for as long as it's prescribed, even if your symptoms go away. Avoid having sex until your treatment is complete and the infection is cured. It's especially important to let your sex partners know that you have chlamydia so they can get tested and treated, too.
What if I just ignore it?
Bad idea — chlamydia can have serious complications if left untreated, especially for women. Each year, about one million women develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the internal reproductive organs. Studies estimate that about half these PID cases are caused by untreated chlamydia infections. PID can scar the fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility.
This type of scarring can also lead to fertilized eggs getting stuck in the fallopian tubes, a condition called ectopic pregnancy. Even if a woman has a successful pregnancy, the fetus could get a chlamydia infection in the eyes or lungs. That's why health care providers recommend that every pregnant woman be screened for chlamydia, even if she thinks she doesn't have it.
Family planning clinics provide confidential STD screening services such as a chlamydia test.
by Christy Brownlee, July 2006
For More Information:
Download Listen Up! - A Chlamydia Education Brochure
From 1995-2012, JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. successfully served as the coordinator of the Region I Infertility Prevention Project (IPP). Further information about the Region I Infertility Prevention Project can be obtained on JSI.com.