How Is Chlamydia Treated?

man taking chlamydia medication

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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. You can get or transmit chlamydia through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.Most people living with chlamydia don't experience any symptoms—which can make it difficult to know if you have the infection.

The good news is that getting regularly screened and tested for STIs can help you get a diagnosis and start treatment if necessary. If you may need treatment, antibiotics are the most common way to treat and cure chlamydia. In fact, antibiotic treatment is 95% effective in treating chlamydia.

The main goals of treatment are to:

  • Resolve your chlamydia-related symptoms
  • Reduce the transmission of chlamydia to your sexual partners
  • Prevent complications related to the chlamydia infection

You can get chlamydia more than once in your lifetime. Chlamydia reinfection is also possible, often due to sexual partners who have not received treatment. To prevent back-and-forth reinfection, your healthcare provider may recommend that both you and your sexual partners should receive chlamydia treatment.

Antibiotic Medications

If you get screened for chlamydia and receive a positive test result, that means you currently have a chlamydia infection. Monodox (doxycycline) and Zithromax (azithromycin) are the two most common antibiotic medications for chlamydia. Your healthcare provider will prescribe an antibiotic based on your specific needs and symptoms.


Doxycycline is a chlamydia treatment most often recommended for teens and adults who are not pregnant. Research has also shown that doxycycline is more effective in treating chlamydia infection in the rectum and throat than azithromycin.

Doxycycline is part of a class of medications known as tetracycline antibiotics. For infections like chlamydia, tetracycline antibiotics work to prevent the growth and spread of bacteria.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe you doxycycline to take two times a day for seven days. It is important to complete treatment by taking medication as prescribed. However, this treatment does not come without side effects, as you may experience:

Some side effects of doxycycline can be serious. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision, seeing double, or loss of vision
  • Hives
  • Skin redness, peeling, or blistering
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant, as doxycycline is not recommended for people who are pregnant. This is because the antibiotic may cause harm to developing teeth and bones in the fetus.


Some people are unable to take doxycycline or have trouble taking antibiotics for seven days. In cases like this, a healthcare provider may prescribe azithromycin. Unlike doxycycline, azithromycin can be taken during pregnancy.

Azithromycin is part of a class of medications called macrolide antibiotics. To treat bacterial infections, macrolide antibiotics work by stopping the growth of bacteria.

Azithromycin is available as a one-time dose taken orally (or, by mouth). Some healthcare providers prefer to prescribe this treatment regimen since it is easier to complete as compared to a multi-day regimen. However, azithromycin may cause side effects such as:

Other side effects of azithromycin can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Itchiness
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness

Lifestyle Habits

As with any STI, there are ways to prevent or lower your risk of chlamydia infection or reinfection. The only way to prevent chlamydia is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Oftentimes, abstaining from sex is not always possible. Instead, you may try lowering your risk of chlamydia by:

  • Practicing safer sex such as using condoms every time you have sex
  • Seeing your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you have symptoms of chlamydia or another STI
  • Making chlamydia and other STI screening part of your routine healthcare
  • Refraining from having sex with your partner if they have a burning sensation with urination or other STI symptoms

Your sexual partners should also receive treatment to prevent chlamydia reinfection if you have symptoms. It's important to also not have sex with your partner(s) until treatment is completed.

If you were given a single dose of antibiotics, you should wait seven days after taking the medicine to have sex. If you were given a 7-day regimen, wait until you finish all of the doses before having sex again. Your healthcare provider may also test you for chlamydia again to ensure symptoms are gone and it's safe to resume sex.

Living With and Managing Chlamydia

While having an STI may seem scary, the good news is that chlamydia is treatable and curable. But, treatment should be started as soon as possible—so it's imperative to get tested regularly. Antibiotic treatment is 95% effective in treating an infection.

Taking antibiotics as prescribed and completing the whole treatment regimen is important. The medication will stop chlamydia from spreading and lower the chances of health complications in the future. Keep in mind: antibiotics cannot undo existing damage caused by delayed treatment for chlamydia.

When left untreated, chlamydia can cause complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can be treated successfully.  Untreated PID, however, can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes. This can lead to:

  • Long-term pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (a type of pregnancy that grows and develops in the fallopian tubes rather than the uterus)
  • Infertility

Reinfection is common and typically occurs when sexual partners have not received treatment for chlamydia. Research shows that as many as 25% of people are reinfected with chlamydia by untreated sexual partners. To prevent back-and-forth reinfection, it's good practice for your partner(s) to also receive chlamydia treatment.

A Quick Review

Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Doxycycline and azithromycin are antibiotics that your healthcare provider may prescribe to help you treat and cure a chlamydia infection. Practicing certain lifestyle habits such as having safe sex (e.g., using a condom) and getting screened for STIs regularly can also decrease your risk of developing the infection.

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