Chlamydia is a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) wherein a patient is infected with the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria strain. This bacteria strain then resides in the cervix or vagina of a woman or in the urethra and rectum of both men and women.
How Can You Get Chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be transmitted from one person to another via unprotected sexual contact (vaginal, anal or oral sex) or even by touching the genitals of someone who already has the disease.1, 2
Chlamydia may also be transmitted during childbirth. A mother who has chlamydia may pass on the disease to her child when the baby passes through the vaginal canal. Eye damage and pneumonia are known side effects of chlamydia infection in newborns.3
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that infants born to women with untreated chlamydial cervical infection had chlamydial conjunctivitis or the redness and swelling in the clear membrane of the eyes4 (18 to 44 percent of infants) and chlamydial pneumonia (3 to 16 percent of infants).5
Rectal or genital chlamydial infections may also continue for up to one year for an infant who has been infected by chlamydia at birth.6
There is a myth that chlamydia can be transferred to another person by kissing each other, but this is not true. The same goes for sharing items such as clothes, toilet seats, bed lines, and silverware7 with someone who is affected with chlamydia.8
Watch Out for These Chlamydia Risk Factors
It’s important to note that there are factors that increase your chances of getting chlamydia. These include:
- Unprotected sex, especially with someone who already has chlamydia:9 chlamydia-causing bacteria resides in vaginal fluid and semen,10 and the possibility of chlamydial transmission increases during unprotected sex.
- Having a previous STI diagnosis: even if you’ve been treated for an STI in the past, you can get infected with chlamydia again if you have unprotected sex with someone who has the said STI.11
- Being a woman under age 24:12 although both males and females from any age can be affected with chlamydia, the infection rates are highest among young and teenage women.13 According to the CDC, these groups of women may have cervical ectopy, wherein cells coming from the endocervix are found on the ectocervix, thereby increasing a woman’s chances of being affected with the disease.14
- Having multiple sex partners within a year:15 you’re more likely to be infected with chlamydia if you have sexual encounters with different people.16 This is particularly true for adolescents, as noted by the CDC. They increase their risk for chlamydia because they have the tendency to move from one relationship to another more quickly than the likely infectivity period of the disease.17