Chlamydia is easy to cure. “If you test positive for chlamydia, basically you take an antibiotic,” says Jill Rabin, MD, co-chief in the division of ambulatory care for women’s health programs and prenatal care assistance program services for Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.
Your partner must take an antibiotic, too, to keep them from reinfecting you, she says.
“You have to have your partner treated, and if you have more than one partner, they should all be treated,” says Dr. Rabin, regardless of your partners’ genders.
Even if you don’t have chlamydia now, it’s wise to learn how to protect yourself so you won’t develop this common infection in the first place. In women, chlamydia can create serious health problems, including infertility. Besides, no one ever wants to have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and then have to tell other people about it.
Getting Treated for Chlamydia and, Often, Gonorrhea
If you have your own doctor, he will prescribe the antibiotics you need to treat chlamydia. If you don’t have your own doctor, you can often find free or low-cost care at either a Planned Parenthood location or a community health clinic.
Listen carefully to the instructions for taking the medicine that you are given by the doctor or other healthcare provider, and follow them closely.
Ask questions if you don’t understand something. Also, if you have other questions as you take your medicine, you can always call the pharmacist for help. They are often easier to reach than the doctor.
If you test positive for chlamydia, your healthcare provider is likely to also recommend that you be treated for gonorrhea. This is because the cost of treating gonorrhea is less than the cost of testing for the infection.
Treatment for Chlamydia Is Quick and Easy
Two antibiotics are most often used for treating chlamydia:
- Doxycycline If your doctor prescribes doxycycline, you will take one pill daily for a week. Though it costs somewhat more than azithromycin, it’s now the preferred treatment for chlamydia in the United States, due to growing antibiotic resistance to azithromycin.
- Azithromycin If prescribed azithromycin, you’ll likely take one gram at one time, says Julie Dombrowski, MD, MPH, deputy director of clinical services for public health with the Seattle and King County HIV/STD Program in Washington. “That one gram comes as either two pills or four pills,” she says. It is not expensive.
Antibiotics can also cure chlamydia in infants, who can get the infection from their mothers, and treatment is essential for them. Without treatment, infants infected with chlamydia can develop conjunctivitis, which can cause blindness, or pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Treatment for Gonorrhea Is Quick and Easy, Too
The CDC currently recommends a shot of the antibiotic ceftriaxone (Rocephin) and an oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin, given at the same time, to treat gonorrhea.
Treatment recommendations for gonorrhea have changed over the years as the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has become resistant to a growing number of antibiotics. (1)
RELATED: For First Time, Standard Antibiotic Regimen Fails to Cure a Case of Gonorrhea
Sex Partners Need Treatment, Too
If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, you will need to tell all of your sexual partners, because they will need the same treatment you are receiving.
In most states, a doctor or other healthcare provider can give you the medicine that your partner or partners will need to take. Then you can deliver it to those partners. This practice is called “expedited partner therapy” or “patient delivered partner therapy.”
These options can help a lot if your partner doesn’t have a healthcare provider or feels embarrassed about seeking care, says Dr. Dombrowski.
It’s natural to feel nervous or upset about having to tell your partner or partners about having an STD. Your healthcare provider can help with this problem. “They may even rehearse the conversation with you,” says Dombrowksi.
Learning about chlamydia and seeking advice from a healthcare provider about how to discuss it with your partner(s) can help you handle the conversation(s) with less anxiety and more confidence.
Remember, chlamydia is not just common: It is the most common infection reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You are being helpful, mature, and responsible by telling your partners.
Put Sex on Hold During and After Chlamydia Treatment
If you were given a single dose of antibiotics to treat your chlamydia, you should not have any kind of sex for a full seven days after the day you took the medicine. If you’re taking antibiotics for a week, wait another seven days after the last day of your treatment. Be sure to take all of the medicine that is prescribed for you.
Not having sex for seven days after treatment is complete is important so you don’t spread the infection to your partner or partners.
Medication stops the infection and can keep you from spreading the disease, but it won’t cure any permanent damage that the infection caused before you started treatment. In women, such damage can include blocking the fallopian tubes, causing infertility.
If you still have symptoms for more than a few days after you stop taking your medicine, go back to see your doctor or other healthcare provider so they can check you again.
Get Retested Following Treatment
Many people have more than one chlamydia infection. If you’re a girl or woman and your sex partners are not treated for the infection, you will be at high risk for reinfection. Repeated infections with chlamydia make it much more likely that your ability to have children will be affected. Repeated infections also raise your risk of painful complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.
Both women and men with chlamydia should be retested about three months after they are first diagnosed and treated. Go to be retested even if you think your sex partners were successfully treated.
The only way to totally avoid getting chlamydia, and STDs in general, is to forego having any kind of sex, whether it is vaginal, anal, or oral.
If you are going to have sex, the two most important things you can do to lower your chances of getting chlamydia are:
- Only have sex within a long-term relationship with one other person, who only has sex with you and who has tested negative for STDs. Such a relationship is called a mutually monogamous relationship.
- Use latex condoms the right way every time you have vaginal or anal sex, and a dental dam when you have oral sex. (2)
Parents Have a Role in Chlamydia Prevention
Parents can do two main things to help their kids avoid getting chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), says Dombrowski. These two things are:
- Talk openly. “Parents can start by talking with their kids about sex and sexual health early, giving the kids accurate information” she says. When having these conversations, don’t try to frighten children into practicing abstinence or safe sex. “It’s pretty common for parents to use STIs to talk about what can happen if you have sex or unprotected sex. But using STIs as a scare tactic is not effective,” she says. “It just makes the kids feel more frightened, more stigmatized, and terrible if they really do get one.”
- Ensure access to condoms. Parents are often focused on preventing pregnancy, says Dombrowski, which can be achieved with various contraceptives besides condoms. “Parents should also think about kids having access to condoms for the prevention of chlamydia and other STIs,” she says. Parents can leave condoms lying around where kids will find them, without saying much of anything about the condoms, she suggests.
School-Based Prevention Can Work
Schools also have a role to play in prevention by offering children and teens good sex education. “Good sex education means accurate, straightforward factual information about STIs,” says Dombrowksi. She also says that school can take a role in ensuring that youngsters have access to condoms.
Well-designed, well-run STD prevention programs in schools have proven effective in reducing risky behaviors among youngsters, according to the CDC. (3) Some of their positive effects for youngsters include the following:
- First intercourse occurring at later ages
- Fewer sex partners
- Fewer occasions when youth have unprotected sex
- Greater rates of using condoms
Certain activities mark well-designed, well-run STD prevention programs within schools. Such programs:
- Are delivered by trained instructors
- Are age-appropriate
- Include skill-building components, with a focus on abilities such as communication and planning
- Involve parents as well as other organizations that serve young people or health organizations
The Costs of Infertility
Treating chlamydia is easy, but for those who do not get treated or get treated too late, living with the damage caused by the infection can be hard.
Rabin has treated many women who never knew they had had chlamydia until they couldn’t get pregnant due to blocked fallopian tubes. These women often wind up trying in vitro fertilization (IVF), which does not always succeed.
“There are all kinds of costs involved for these women,” says Rabin. “There are emotional costs and physical costs.” There are also financial costs with IVF. “It’s much better to not let the tubes get damaged,” she says, “and get pregnant the old-fashioned way.”