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What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a very common bacterial STI that can usually be treated with a short course of antibiotics. Because chlamydia doesn’t always cause symptoms, it can sometimes be left untreated and cause medical complications. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex, even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms.

How do you get chlamydia?

The bacteria that cause chlamydia are present in semen and vaginal fluid. Most people contract chlamydia after having sex without a condom – you can get chlamydia by having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. There’s also a risk associated with sharing sex toys.

Sex does not have to be penetrative for chlamydia to be passed on. If your genitals come into contact with your partner’s, the bacteria may be picked up. It’s also possible to get a chlamydia infection in the eye if it comes into contact with fluid from the penis or vagina.

Symptoms

Around 70% of women and 50% of men don’t experience any symptoms after becoming infected with chlamydia. People who do experience symptoms usually notice:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina

Women might experience pain in the abdomen or pelvis, and might find it painful to have sex. Irregular bleeding is also a symptom for women – bleeding during sex or between periods can be a sign of chlamydia.

Men might experience pain in the testicles, or an itching/burning sensation in the urethra.

Tests

It’s advised that if you’re under 25 and sexually active you should get tested for chlamydia every year, or whenever you change sexual partners.

The chlamydia test is very simple and painless and involves taking a urine sample or a swab of the affected area. You can get tested for free at NHS GP surgeries and sexual health clinics.

Alternatively, you can buy a postal test kit for chlamydia, where you take a sample at home and send it off to a lab to receive results.

Treatment

Once you’ve received a diagnosis of chlamydia you can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. The usual treatment is successful in 95% of patients when taken correctly.

You should take your medication exactly as directed by your doctor.

 

Content reviewed by Jemma Shafier, a Doctor Care Anywhere GP