Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Chlamydia is the Military's Most Common Sexually Transmitted Infection

Image of Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., and most people who have it don’t know it. You may be able to get STI testing and treatment at your local community health clinic. In the photo, a service member at Naval Medical Center Camp LeJeune Community Health Clinic gets tested for STIs.  (Photo: Naval Medical Center Camp LeJeune Public Affairs). Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S.. In the photo, a service member at Naval Medical Center Camp LeJeune Community Health Clinic gets tested for STIs. (Photo: Naval Medical Center Camp LeJeune Public Affairs)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention

Chlamydia – commonly known as “the clam” – is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the military community, military health data shows.

And the rates for Chlamydia, among both men and women, have been rising in recent years, according to a 2021 report on sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, from the Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch.

“Annual rates among all active component members increased 64% between 2013 and 2019,” according to the report, which is based on a study of medical records between 2012 and 2020.

Chlamydia can cause permanent damage that can make it difficult or impossible for women to get pregnant. It often shows no symptoms at all but in some cases, it can cause a burning sensation when peeing in both men and women.

Chlamydia is by far the most common STI in the military. Rates of chlamydia were greater than the sum of the other four most common STIs combined, according to the report.

Why is Chlamydia so Prevalent?

The problem is not unique to the military. The “rates of chlamydia have been steadily increasing in the general U.S. population among both females and males since 2000,” according to the report.

“Cases of chlamydial infections are increasing both in the military and throughout the United States,” said Navy Lt. (Dr.) Karli Woollens, a family medicine specialist at the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton supporting Naval Hospital Bremerton, in Washington.

“In the U.S., chlamydial infections increased by 19% between 2015 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Woollens said.

And while “females statistically show higher incidences of chlamydia,” this could be because “they are also more likely to be screened and therefore diagnosed with STIs due to recommended screening programs for all asymptomatic sexually active young women and pregnant women,” she said.

Woollens said one of the big reasons chlamydia is so prevalent is that there’s a large patient population that is infected with chlamydia without any symptoms, “providing an ongoing source for disease transmission.”

When chlamydia does show symptoms, they can vary.

“It can be entirely asymptomatic but still transmissible, or it can cause infection of specific anatomic sites depending on the type of intercourse practiced (oral, rectal, or vaginal),” Woollens said.

The most common clinical symptoms in males are infections of the urethra, which can cause burning and pain during urination, she said.

“Males can also get infection of the epididymis [a duct behind the testis], causing testicular pain and tenderness, or prostate infection causing painful urination, painful ejaculation, and pelvic pain,” Woollens said.

“In females, the most common clinical finding is cervical infection, which can result in abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, or bleeding and pain with intercourse,” said Woollens. “Females can also get infection of the urethra, causing painful and frequent urination.”

Women can also develop pelvic inflammatory disease, “which is an infection of the upper reproductive tracts causing abdominal and pelvic pain and even inflammation of the liver capsule, causing pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen,” she said.

In both men and women, chlamydia can also affect different organs that come in contact with infected genital secretions, for example the rectum or the throat if engaging in anal or oral sexual activity, or eye infections if exposed.

For example, “reactive arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis that causes swelling and joint pain after chlamydial infection.”

How to Treat Chlamydia

Chlamydia infections can typically be treated with oral antibiotics, said Woollens.

But she highlights the importance of treating it fully before engaging in sexual activity because re-infection is very common.

“You often have to wait a full seven days after treatment before having sex to reduce the risk of transmission and re-infection,” she said.

She also recommends asking your doctor about “expedited partner therapy to help get your sexual partners treated quickly and effectively to prevent re-infection.”

Risks of Untreated Chlamydia

In women, leaving chlamydial infections of the cervix untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility, increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, or chronic pelvic pain, said Woollens.

In addition, chlamydia can also impact pregnancy.

“It can increase the risk of premature membrane rupture, premature delivery, and low birthweight infants,” she said. “Transmission from the mother to baby is also a concern, which can cause eye infections, blindness, pneumonia, or sepsis in newborns.”

Preventing Chlamydia

To prevent chlamydia and other STIs, “barrier methods, most commonly condom use, is highly recommended,” she said.

“Because chlamydia and other STIs can be asymptomatic, it’s important to get screened for STIs if you have new sexual partners, or to get screened regularly if you engage in high-risk sexual activity.”

She recommends people also get “multi-site STI testing, which includes chlamydia and gonorrhea testing of the urine, vagina, penis, rectum, and pharynx when applicable to their personal sexual practices.”

She said it’s important for people to be able to speak safely and openly with their medical providers about their sexual practices to ensure that they get the care they need.

“Sexual health is incredibly important, so be mindful and take care of yourself and others!”

You also may be interested in...

Protecting Your Hearing and Vision is a Personal Readiness Mission

Photo
6/14/2022
Protecting Your Hearing and Vision is a Personal Readiness Mission

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Dominique Campbell drives a forklift on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a vertical replenishment. She is wearing proper hearing and vision protection.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Expeditionary Medical Integration

Photo
5/12/2022
Expeditionary Medical Integration

U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy Corpsmen with 1st Marine Division asses the injuries under the supervision of evaluators during an Expeditionary Medical Integration Course (EMIC) on Camp Pendleton, California May 5, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Iraq Bomb Attack Led Soldier to Pursue Medical Career

Photo
5/12/2022
Iraq Bomb Attack Led Soldier to Pursue Medical Career

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mathew Maxwell (Left) and U.S. Capt. Brian Ahern, medical personnel assigned to a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recovery team, check the pulse of a local villager during excavation operations in the Houaphan province, Laos, Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael O'Neal)

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness

Hearing Problems Decline

Photo
12/14/2021
Hearing Problems Decline

Hearing loss in the Department of Defense continues to decrease for service members and civilians enrolled in hearing conservation programs.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Conditions and Treatments

WICC Podcast

Photo
10/18/2021
WICC Podcast

Today’s female service member population is now at 17%.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Warrior Care | Total Force Fitness

Flag Football Game

Photo
9/28/2016
Flag Football Game

Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Physical Fitness

Battlefield Medicine Course

Photo
9/28/2016
Battlefield Medicine Course

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Triana, left, 347th Operations Support Squadron independent duty medical technician-paramedic, addresses injuries on a simulated patient during a tactical combat casualty care course, in Okeechobee, Florida. The course tests and reinforces participants’ lifesaving medical skills while they are in high-stress, combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Orient Shield

Photo
9/26/2016
Orient Shield

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force medics carry a casualty from an ambulance to a JGSDF helicopter while a U.S. Army medic calls directions during a bilateral medical training exercise.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Healthy aging starts sooner than you think

Photo
9/23/2016
Healthy aging starts sooner than you think

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command

Photo
9/23/2016
Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command

Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command, Medical Support Unit-Europe conduct medical evacuation training with Staff Sgt. Jessie Turner, flight medic with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

MEDEVAC Helicopter

Photo
9/23/2016
MEDEVAC Helicopter

It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Ukrainian soldiers on field litter ambulances

Photo
9/20/2016
Ukrainian soldiers on field litter ambulances

A Ukrainian Soldier uses hand signals during a ground guide exercise of field litter ambulance familiarization on the driving range at Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine. A team of medics and a mechanic from 557th Medical Company and 212th Combat Support Hospital are working together to conduct field littler ambulance and medical equipment familiarization with the Ukrainian military. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeku)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Big Rescue Kanagawa 2016

Photo
9/20/2016
Big Rescue Kanagawa 2016

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Reginaldo Cagampan, left, and Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rocky Pambid, members of the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Emergency Response Team, treat a simulated patient during the 2016 Big Rescue Kanagawa Disaster Prevention Joint Drill in Yokosuka city, Japan. Multiple agencies took part in the drill including the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as personnel from the Japan Self-Defense Force and Japanese government agencies. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg Mitchell)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Breathing techniques

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Psychological Fitness
Showing results 1 - 14 Page 1 of 1
Refine your search
Last Updated: June 21, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.