Chlamydia is the most frequently reported sexually transmitted disease in the United States, but a promising new vaccine could change that.
There were nearly two million cases of Chlamydia reported in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That actually may be a low number since the disease can be present with little or no symptoms.
Antibiotics can clear a chlamydia infection from the body; but left untreated, Chlamydia can lead to disabling, long-term complications for women.
The Chlamydia bacteria target the cervix, and, for about 1 in 6 women, spreads to the uterus and fallopian tubes where it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy.
A possible vaccine is being tested right now that may prevent the disease from taking hold. If the vaccine is approved for use, the ideal age to vaccinate girls and boys would be around 11 or 12, roughly the same as for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine.
If symptoms of Chlamydia do appear, it is not usually until several weeks after someone has had sex with an infected partner. It can be spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Infected women may notice an abnormal vaginal discharge and/or a burning sensation when urinating. Symptoms in men can include a discharge from their penis, a burning sensation when urinating, and pain and swelling in one or both testicles. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage the reproductive system.
Sexually active women younger than 25 years should get a test for chlamydia every year. Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, as well as pregnant women and older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STD, should also get tested for chlamydia every year. Using condoms and/or dental dams every time you have sex is the best way to help prevent chlamydia.
Someone who is pregnant should get tested for chlamydia at their first prenatal visit because having chlamydia may cause a woman to deliver a preterm baby. Chlamydia can also be spread to the baby during birth if the mother has it and could cause an eye infection or pneumonia in a newborn.