Chlamydia vs. Gonorrhea: Similarities and Differences

2022-05-14 18:49:34 By : Ms. Suzie Ho

As a public health professional with over 10 years of experience, Katie is passionate about informing decision-making that impacts the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

Lauren Schlanger, MD, is a board-certified primary care physician with a focus on women's and transgender health.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can infect the vaginal, oral, anal, urethral, and throat tissues. While some of the symptoms may be the same, many people are asymptomatic (experience no symptoms at all) with either infection.

It can be difficult to determine if you have chlamydia or gonorrhea by symptoms alone. To get effective treatment, STIs must be diagnosed by a healthcare provider.

Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between these infections, risk factors, and prevention.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are not caused by the same pathogen (germ), but there are a number of similarities between the infections, including how they are transmitted and diagnosed, and their outcomes if they aren't treated.

The bacterium that causes chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis ) and the bacterium that causes gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoea ) can both be found in semen and vaginal fluids.

Transmission between people for either infection can occur during:

Diagnostic tests for chlamydia or gonorrhea are very similar.

The samples used to test for a gonorrhea infection are essentially the same.

For both infections, you may have the option to collect samples yourself. You will either use a swab to collect samples from the same areas that a healthcare provider would, or collect your own urine sample. Researchers have found that self-collection of samples provides accurate results.

Collecting samples at home and returning them to a clinic or mailing them to a lab to get results may also be an option.

You may wish to use a rapid at-home test to get results. If so, it's critical to seek medical care if you get a positive result in order to receive treatment and discuss future prevention.

While some people may have a chlamydia or gonorrhea infection without knowing it, it won't go away without being treated. Some of the long-term impacts of the two infections are similar.

Among other health concerns, some of the possible conditions that can occur if either infection is left untreated include:

While chlamydia and gonorrhea have a lot in common, there are a few differences between the two, mainly in symptoms and treatment.

A person who has a chlamydia or gonorrhea infection may not know they have it, because they have no symptoms. If symptoms are experienced, they may be slightly different depending on the type of infection.

Symptoms of chlamydia may include:

Symptoms of gonorrhea may include:

Gonorrhea can also infect the anus and throat. In the anus, symptoms may include itching around the area, discharge, or pain. Symptoms in the throat are rare and may only include a sore throat.

Chlamydia infections in the United States are much more common than gonorrhea. According to a 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, there were:

Both infections are treated with antibiotics, though they are not the same medications.

Chlamydia is treated with doxycycline taken orally, two times a day for seven days. Alternative medications are also taken orally and may include a single dose of azithromycin or levofloxacin , once a day for seven days.

Gonorrhea treatments will vary. Some strains of gonorrhea are now resistant to some antibiotic medications that were previously effective.

For an infection in the urethra, cervix, throat, or rectum:

If chlamydia infection hasn't been excluded, the person should also be treated for chlamydia with doxycycline.

Being tested for either infection right after completing treatment isn't necessary (unless the infection is in the throat or the person is pregnant). However, retesting at three months after treatment is recommended for everyone.

It's wise to avoid having sex until your treatment is completed and all your sexual partners have completed their treatment for chlamydia or gonorrhea. This reduces the risk for transmission to other people and being reinfected.

Expedited partner therapy may be available in some healthcare clinics if it's not possible for your partner(s) to easily get tested or treated. In this case, a healthcare provider gives a prescription to the patient who was diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea so that they can give it to their partner(s) without their needing a medical visit.

It's recommended to inform any sexual partners you had in the three months prior to diagnosis about your infection so they can seek testing and treatment.

The only way to completely avoid the risk of getting an STI is to not have sex.

But if you are sexually active, there are a number of ways you and your partner(s) can reduce the risk of transmitting STIs, including:

Anyone who is sexually active may be at risk for getting or transmitting an STI. However, there are certain factors that may increase your risk for getting chlamydia, gonorrhea, or another STI.

The likelihood of getting an STI may be higher if you have sex:

There are certain populations of people who may be at a higher risk for STIs. These groups include:

Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections are similar in many ways, including how they are transmitted, diagnosed, and what happens if they are left untreated. However, there are some notable differences, such as certain symptoms and the specific treatments for each infection.

There are effective ways to reduce your risk of transmitting STIs, including by using condoms, getting tested for STIs regularly, and being familiar with your sexual partners.

If you're sexually active, it's wise to know the symptoms and risk factors for sexually transmitted infections. Talk with your healthcare provider about how often you should be tested for STIs depending on your status. Testing will help you identify infections sooner and reduce the risk of transmitting them to others.

Yes, it is possible to be infected with both at the same time. This is because they are caused by different bacteria. The most up-to-date treatment guidelines recommend treating both infections in that case. This may mean getting more than one medication from a healthcare provider.

For the majority of people who have chlamydia or gonorrhea, the infection will persist in the body until it's treated and cured. However, some research supports that the infections go away on their own for about 20% of people with asymptomatic chlamydia and about the same percentage for those with gonorrhea.

Yes, the available treatments do effectively cure the infections. However, it is possible to become reinfected. There is also a growing concern of some strains of gonorrhea that may be resistant to certain medications used to treat the infection.

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