Chlamydia / Gonorrhea

What are Chlamydia and Gonorrhea?

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caused by bacteria. Both men and women can develop infection of the reproductive organs, the urethra, throat, and rectum.  Although caused by different kinds of bacteria, these infections spread the same way, may have similar symptoms and can both be cured with antibiotics.

Many people with these infections have no symptoms.

If left untreated, these infections can cause serious health problems and infertility (the inability to get pregnant) in men and women.

Having these infections, even without symptoms, may make your body more open to getting infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Remember: bacteria spread wherever and whenever they can. Sex can spread bacteria, but sex does not cause chlamydia and gonorrhea. Bacteria cause chlamydia and gonorrhea.

How are they spread?

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex when bacteria from an infected person comes into contact with the mucosa (thin, moist lining) inside the mouth, vagina or rectum.

Sexual Transmission Diagram

Can they be prevented?

Yes, they can. Prevention means reducing your risk of getting an STI. You can reduce your risk of getting chlamydia and gonorrhea by using condoms for vaginal, anal or oral sex. 

Condoms can prevent bacteria and viruses from spreading:
Using Male Condoms & Using Internal/Female Condoms

What are the symptoms?

Many people infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea show no signs or symptoms.

 Symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea can include any of the following:

  • Pain or burning feeling when you urinate (pee)
  • White, yellow or green discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • Itching of the vagina, penis or anus
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Swelling or pain in the scrotum
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding between periods or after sex
  • Pain with sexual intercourse

Recently, LGV or  lymphogranuloma venereum, an infection caused by the same bacteria that causes chlamydia, has become more common in Canada.  Often the first sign of infection is a painless sore or lump in the vagina, penis, rectum, cervix or mouth.  The lymph nodes (glands) may become swollen in the area where the infection occurred - the groin, anal region or neck. If left untreated, LGV can lead to a more serious infection.

Learn more about your body parts

Can they be cured?

Yes. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics.  Be sure to follow your doctor or nurse's treatment and follow-up recommendations. Avoid unprotected sexual activities that may put you at risk for re-infection until you and your partner(s) have completed your antibiotic treatment and have been told the infection is gone. 

Remember: you can get chlamydia or gonorrhea more than once.

How can I tell if I am infected?

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are usually diagnosed by testing urine samples (for men and women) or swabs of the vagina, urethra, mouth or rectum. A swab is like a thin Q-tip for collecting body fluids.

You might think about getting tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea if:

  • You or your sex partner had oral, anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
  • You have symptoms of chlamydia or gonorrhea.
  • A sex partner tells you they are infected or have symptoms.
  • You are told that a sex partner is infected.
  • You have been diagnosed with another STI.
  • You are pregnant. Babies infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea during birth can get very sick.

What will happen when I go to get tested?

When you go to a doctor or nurse to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), give as many details as you can so you can get the best care possible. This is what will probably happen:

  • Your genitals may be examined for sores, growths, swelling or discharge.
  • You will be asked for a urine [pee] sample.
  • Swabs may be taken from the vagina, urethra [pee hole], mouth, throat, or rectum.
  • A blood sample may be taken to test for Hepatitis B and syphilis.
  • You may be offered HIV testing (usually done separately).

 What about HIV?

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is also a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is spread when the virus from infected blood, semen or vaginal fluid gets into your blood. If you already have an STI such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes or genital warts, you may have broken skin, swelling or sores that make it much easier for HIV to get into your body.