Chlamydia & Gonorrhea

What are Chlamydia & Gonorrhea?

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are separate but distinct bacteria that are passed from partner to partner during vaginal, anal or oral sex. They are different infections but are often tested together because they travel together, are frequently found together in the body, and have similar side effects and cross-over symptoms.  

In the U.S., there are an estimated 1.4 million cases of chlamydia reported annually, with an increased detection rate in sexually active women aged 16-24. The overwhelming majority of positive chlamydia cases reported are in women; however, according to the CDC, more women are screened for the infection on a regular basis. The CDC anticipates that with more sensitive testing methodologies and easier collection methods now available for men (i.e. urine), we will see a rise in positive results among both symptomatic and asymptomatic men.

Gonorrhea, although not as prevalent as chlamydia, is the second most reported identifiable STD in the US. From 2012-2013, the CDC reported the following information on gonorrhea:

  • The gonorrhea rate decreased among women, but increased among men
  • In 2013, for the first time ever, the total number of reported gonorrhea cases was higher in men than in women
  • The rate decreased among persons aged 15-24, but increased among persons over age 25

A notable concern for the CDC, gonorrhea has progressively developed resistance to each of the antibiotics historically used for treatment. Although the CDC has updated treatment recommendations to counter this trend, this emerging threat highlights the need for continued surveillance of gonorrhea antimicrobial susceptibility and testing post-treatment to ensure antibiotic effectiveness.

 

Identifying the symptoms

Gonorrhea

Not all people infected with gonorrhea have symptoms, so knowing when to seek treatment can be tricky. When symptoms do occur, they are often within two to 10 days after exposure, but they can take up to 30 days to develop and include the following:

Gonorrhea symptoms in women

  • Greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the vagina
  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Burning when urinating
  • Conjunctivitis (red, itchy eyes)
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Spotting after intercourse
  • Swelling of the vulva (vulvitis)
  • Burning in the throat (due to oral sex)
  • Swollen glands in the throat (due to oral sex)

In some women, symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed.

Many women with gonorrhea discharge think they have a yeast infection and self-treat with over-the-counter yeast infection drug. Because vaginal discharge can be a sign of a number of different problems, it is best to always seek the advice of a doctor to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Gonorrhea symptoms in men

  • Greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the penis
  • Burning when urinating
  • Burning in the throat (due to oral sex)
  • Painful or swollen testicles
  • Swollen glands in the throat (due to oral sex)

 In men, symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after infection.

 

Chlamydia

It is not easy to tell if you are infected with chlamydia since symptoms are not always apparent. But when they do occur, they are usually noticeable within one to three weeks of contact and can include the following:

Chlamydia symptoms in women

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odor
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful periods
  • Abdominal pain with fever
  • Pain when having sex
  • Itching or burning in or around the vagina
  • Pain when urinating

Chlamydia symptoms in men

  • Small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Burning and itching around the opening of the penis
  • Pain and swelling around the testicles

 

What Should I do if I test positive?

Remember that infection with chlamydia and/or gonorrhea is very common and not unusual. However, you should seek treatment. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are very treatable with antibiotics. After you have your results, please share them with a healthcare professional to establish the next steps of care.

Repeat infection is very common, particularly with chlamydia. This causes an even greater risk for potential long-term complications. The CDC recommends retesting 3 months post-treatment; a negative result establishes the treatment was effective.

Because you can transmit your infection to partners at this time, you should abstain from sexual activity until after treatment. You should also inform all current and past sexual partners about your results so they know to get tested as well.

 

What should I do if I test Negative?

A negative result indicates that at the time of collection, the presence of chlamydia and gonorrhea were not detected in the sample provided. However, if the above symptoms arise or personal sexual activity changes, you should consider retesting.  

 

For more information

For more information about Chlamydia and Gonorrhea visit the CDC website:

To speak with a trained STD counsellor, contact the CDC National Hotline at:

Phone: 1 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) (24 hours)

Email: cdcinfo@cdc.gov