The Facts

What are chlamydia and gonorrhea?

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You get chlamydia or gonorrhea by having sex (vaginal, oral or anal) with somebody who has them.

Both diseases are caused by bacteria. This means that they can be cured with the right medication (antibiotics). It also means that people can get infected over and over again. People can get chlamydia or gonorrhea but it is also possible to get both at the same time. 

People usually do not know that they have chlamydia or gonorrhea because most of the time there are no symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get tested for them. If you're a sexually active woman, aged 25 and under, you should get tested once a year or right away if you have any symptoms.

How do I know if I have chlamydia or gonorrhea?

Most people with chlamydia or gonorrhea have NO symptoms and do not know anything is wrong. So the only way to know is to get tested!

If you do have symptoms of either chlamydia or gonorrhea, you might have:

  • Burning or pain when you pee.
  • A white, yellow, green or clear drip from the vagina, or anus.
  • More flow (discharge) from the vagina.
  • Pain in the lower belly or back, sometimes with a fever.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Bleeding after sex or between periods.

What could chlamydia and gonorrhea do to my body if I don't get treatment?

If you don't get these infections treated with the right medicines, they can:

  • Make it impossible to have babies when you want to.
  • Lead to serious problems during pregnancy.
  • Lead to ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus or womb, which can be life-threatening).
  • Spread to your baby during birth causing serious damage to their eyes, lungs and joints.
  • Cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - a serious infection of the reproductive organs.
  • Cause long-term pain in your lower belly or back.
  • Make it easier to get or give HIV—the virus that causes AIDS.

How many people have chlamydia and gonorrhea in San Diego County?

A lot! Last year, there were over 17,000 reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in San Diego County. Most of these cases were in young women. The actual number of cases is much higher because not everybody with chlamydia or gonorrhea gets tested. In fact, rates of gonorrhea are increasing dramatically in young women in San Diego. 

How can I protect myself from chlamydia and gonorrhea?

  • The only sure way to prevent getting chlamydia or gonorrhea is to not have sex (abstinence) or to have sex with someone who only has sex with you and who has been tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Using a condom correctly every time you have sex will help protect you from getting an STD. Condoms also help to prevent pregnancy.
  • If you have sex, you may want to limit the number of people you have sex with. Remember that each time you have sex with someone, you can get an STD that your partner got from any of their other partners.
  • If you are having sex, get a chlamydia and gonorrhea test every year, or whenever you switch partners.

If I get treated, why should I get retested in 3 months?

Besides getting treated with medication as soon as possible and notifying your sexual partner(s) so that they can get treated too, there is some other important information you need to know:

  • It is very common for women with chlamydia or gonorrhea to get infected again soon after their first infection. This could be because your partner did not get treated or a new partner is infected. 
  • The risks of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (chronic pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding and possible infertility) increase each time a woman gets a chlamydia or gonorrhea infection. It is very important to prevent reinfections.
  • For most women, there are no symptoms and so you likely will not know that you have been reinfected.

For these reasons, even if you get treated now and even if you make sure that the people you have sex with get treated, it is very important that you get tested again in 3 months to make sure you haven't been infected again.


For more information on STDs, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

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