June 01, 2023 Healthy Living

Chlamydia and STIs: What You Need to Know

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are not a fun or easy topic to talk about. Understanding what STIs are can better protect you and your loved ones. Continue reading to get the facts about chlamydia and other common STIs.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is caused by bacteria passed through sexual contact. It is a curable STI that infects 4 million Americans each year, the majority of whom are women under 25.

In both men and women, chlamydia may not cause any symptoms, so you may not know you have it. When women do develop symptoms, those often include pain when urinating, pain during sex, spotting between periods, changes in vaginal discharge, and lower abdominal pain. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause chronic pelvic pain, an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.

In men, chlamydia may cause pain with urination, discharge from the penis, and pain in the penis or testicles. If left untreated, it can also lead to fevers and infertility. The infections and accompanying symptoms can be cured with proper antibiotics.

What are some common symptoms of other STIs?

Other common symptoms for both men and women can include pain with urination, vaginal or penile discharge, painful bumps or sores, and itching or burning of the genitals or anus.

Gonorrhea can infect the throat – this can be asymptomatic or cause a sore throat.

HIV can look like an acute illness with viral symptoms — think swollen lymph nodes and a fever. An acute illness is an illness that has a very rapid onset, but usually clears up within a month. These symptoms are often missed because they can be mistaken for another type of virus.

Who should get tested for STIs?

Everyone who is under 25 and sexually active should be tested at least once a year for gonorrhea and chlamydia, regardless of your partner’s gender. Many STIs can be asymptomatic – not showing symptoms – (particularly in women), so it’s important to make testing part of your annual care. Every annual preventive visit should include a conversation about STIs. Certain people may be at higher risk and require more frequent screening.

Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STI should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.

All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.

Everyone who is pregnant should be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C starting early in pregnancy. Those at risk for infection should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy. Repeat testing may be needed in some cases.

How do you test for STIs?

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are tested with a urine sample, a cervical sample, or a swab.

HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis can be tested for with blood tests.

For Herpes (HSV1 and HSV2), the test is done with a swab of the lesion if you have symptoms.

You can be tested at OB/GYN providers, primary care provider, urgent care, retail health clinics, and community clinics. Home tests are also available.

Which STIs are treatable vs. curable?

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, and syphilis are all curable with the proper medications. HIV, as we know, is a chronic infection, which is treatable, but it requires lifelong treatment and monitoring.

An initial outbreak of HSV is treated with a high dose of an antiviral treatment, which shortens the amount of time a person is symptomatic, and most likely the time they’re infectious as well. Depending on how often a person has outbreaks, your provider may recommend that you go on suppressive therapy, which is a daily antiviral medication. This can be a lifelong medication.

Reach out to your doctor if you need testing. Ovia and their Care Team can also help you navigate this sensitive topic.*

*The Ovia Health apps (Ovia, Ovia Pregnancy, and Ovia Parenting) are available at no-cost through the Apple and Android app store. Eligible CDPHP members also have access to premium features such as the Ovia Care Team, which can be accessed selecting that you have Ovia Health as a benefit during signup and entering CDPHP. Learn more about Ovia Health.

Lisa Richards, MSN, CNM
About the Author

Lisa Richards is a certified nurse midwife and the manager of the Ovia health coaching team. She has been working in maternal-child healthcare in a variety of settings for over 10 years. Before becoming a midwife, she also worked as a clinical research coordinator in a sleep disorders clinic. In addition to being a nurse and midwife, she is also the mom of four-year-old twins.

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