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Women's Health

Chlamydia

08/31/2007

Question:

can chylamidia live in your body for 1-2yrs, without any symptoms in a man and woman? will you automatically get the disease from the person infected, the very first time you have unprotected sex or after a few times? can you carry the gene for chylamidia in your body and not be aware of it? can a woman have the disease for 6 months in her body and not be aware of it? thank you for answering all of these questions individually, for me!

Answer:

You have asked some very important questions about chlamydia.  I will address them one by one:

1) Can chlamydia live in the body 1-2 years without any symptoms?

At this point it is unclear how long chlamydia can live in the body if left untreated.  We know that 40% of untreated cases of chlamydia in women will develop into pelvic inflammatory disease.

If an individual does have symptoms, they usually show up in 1 to 3 weeks after sex with an infected person.  In women, the symptoms usually are abnormal vaginal discharge or burning on urination.  Men may have a discharge from their penis, burning on urination, or burning and itching around the opening of their penis.  However, please remember the majority of people do not show any signs of having the infection.

2)  Will you automatically get the disease from a person who is infected the first time or after a few times of unprotected sex? 

The transmission rate of chlamydia is around 25% for one exposure or one time having unprotected sex with an infected individual.  The more times you have unprotected sex with a person who has chlamydia the more likely you are to acquire the infection.  The other concern is that sexual partners will "ping pong" the infection back and forth.  Meaning that an individual may have it, give it to their partner, then once the infection has cleared or been treated in the first person, the partner will give it back again.

I also want to add that the transmission rate from a mom to her newborn baby is about 50%.  This is a highly contagious infection.

3) Can you carry the gene for chlamydia and not know it?

Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria (not a gene).  Most women (75% of women) who get the infection do not realize they have it and half of all men who get Chlamydia do not know it.  This is why chlamydia is often called the silent sexually transmitted infection.   

4)  Can a woman have the infection for 6 months and not be aware of it?  

Yes, a woman can have the infection and not know it.  We do not know for sure how long the infection lasts in the body if left untreated.  We do know that 40% of untreated women who have chlamydia infections will develop pelvic inflammatory disease.  This disease, often called PID, can cause damage to the fallopian tubes and uterus leading to infertility, ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside of the uterus), or pelvic pain.

The current recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is that all women under 25 years of age and all women who are sexually active with new or multiple sexual partners be tested each year for chlamydia.  Chlamydia can be treated and cured and, if caught early, complications such as PID can be avoided.  If you, your partner, or someone you know suspects a chlamydia infection either by exposure (suspecting or knowing that a partner has had it) or having actual symptoms, please see a health care practitioner to be tested and treated.

I've included some websites that may give you some more information.  If you have any other questions or you did not get the information you needed from these responses, please do not hesitate to ask again!  Your questions are very good and important. 

Related Resources:

Women's Health Chlamydia
CDC Fact Sheet Chlamydia

For more information:

Go to the Women's Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Victoria  von Sadovszky, PhD Victoria von Sadovszky, PhD
Assistant Professor
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University