Chlamydia and gonorrhea are often lumped into the same categories. To see the truth of this statement, one need look no further than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) guidelines for testing.
For instance, they say that “All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.” Moreover, “At-risk pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy” and “All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.” (1)
With blanket statements like these (while they are very good advice), it’s no wonder that so many people are unclear on the difference between these two diseases. Yet they are different, with different symptoms and different treatments. For that reason, it’s critical to understand their dissimilarities and understand what to do about each.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: The Similarities
Adding to the confusion between the two diseases is the considerable number of similarities between the two. “Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caused by bacteria. They can be contracted through oral, genital, or anal sex,” says Healthline. “The symptoms of these two STIs overlap, so if you have one of these conditions, it’s sometimes hard to be sure which one it is without having a diagnostic test at a doctor’s office.” (2)
Other similarities include:
- Both are bacterial infections that pass between sexual partners during oral, vaginal and anal sex. Both can also be passed to the mouth and eyes, the latter from hands covered in sexual fluid.
- Both diseases are more common in the younger set. According to the American Sexual Health Association, “Young people ages 15 to 24 years old accounted for 65% of chlamydia diagnoses and 50% of gonorrhea diagnoses in 2015.” (3)
- Both diseases have a tendency to be asymptomatic. For gonorrhea, is true in both men and women, as well as rectal infections. Chlamydia is similar. As of 2011, “Most chlamydial infections are asymptomatic, with up to 75% of females and 50% of males exhibiting no symptoms. As such, most cases remain undiagnosed.” (4)
- Both can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can in turn lead to infertility in women. The early stages of this disease involve unexplained discomfort or pain in the pelvic area. If untreated, it may eventually affect the uterus to make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant.
- When symptoms are present, both may causing burning sensations when urinating and pain during sex. Both may also cause discharge.
- Both can pass from a mother to an infant during vaginal delivery, causing potentially serious complications for the baby in the eyes, mouth, throat and lungs.
Also, note that these are not “one or the other” diseases. You can absolutely have both at once, so it’s critical that you don’t dismiss any symptoms. That said, here are some of the differences between the two diseases.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: The Differences
That said, there are a number of dissimilarities that arise from these two diseases. Knowing those differences can help you make a smart decision about whether to get tested.
The Responsible Bacteria
As Healthline explains, “Both conditions are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. Chlamydia is caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. Gonorrhea is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.” Both of these take up residence in the body, growing in the moist environments and using the nutrients the body produces. Their presence can, over time, cause both symptoms and longer lasting consequences.
In addition the symptoms listed above, chlamydia and gonorrhea cause a range of different symptoms that may help you to distinguish between the two.
If chlamydia goes untreated, it tends to lead to lead to flu-like symptoms and fever. This is very dangerous, as it’s a sign of serious infection. Untreated, the consequences can be severe, especially in those who have other STDs or illnesses. Watch for signs such as fever or nausea. Intense pain in the pelvic area or bleeding between periods are also bad signs.
Gonorrhea results in heavier bleeding during periods rather than between them, and you may notice pain during sex.
Both diseases are treated with antibiotics. Treating chlamydia usually involves a 7-14 day course of pills. Today’s best recommendation for gonorrhea, on the other hand, is a single injection to avoid the increasing resistance of this bacteria to certain antibiotics. If you do take antibiotics orally, make sure to finish the entire course of them, not just stop taking them once you are feeling better, which gives the bacteria time to build up resistance.
Why Testing Matters
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to diagnose most sexually transmitted diseases on your own. Testing is the only way to determine what STD you really have, and therefore the only way to treat it appropriately. Because so many infections are asymptomatic, though, and because even when symptoms do show they can be quite mild, many people never bother to get tested at all.
That’s a major problem, though. In avoiding testing, you only make it more likely that you will pass any disease on to a new sexual partner. More to the point, if you don’t require your partners to be tested before you sleep with them, then you’re taking your own health into your hands. You are also putting other members of the population, and their babies, at risk.
Taking a test is the only way to know for sure that you are safe. Luckily, today’s technology enables testing right in the comfort of your own home, without the necessity of a doctor’s visit. Just how does it work? It’s called a home test kit.
How Does a Home Test Kit Work?
Today, you can take the same test in the safety and privacy of your own home that doctor’s use in clinics and hospitals. All you have to do is order a test from iDNA, follow the instructions to collect a sample and mail it off. Our expert team works around the clock to provide your results as soon as possible, so you can enjoy your sex life without fear of possible STDs. Take a test each time you switch partners, have unprotected sex, or are otherwise worried about your sexual health. All you have to do is get in touch and order your At Home STD Test Kit today!
- (1) Which STD Tests Should I Get? (2014). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm
- (2) What’s the Difference Between Chlamydia and Gonorrhea? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases/chlamydia-vs-gonorrhea#causes
- (3) Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed Version). (ND). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm
- (4) Chlamydia: Diagnosing the Hidden STD. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.clinicaladvisor.com/home/features/chlamydia-diagnosing-the-hidden-std/