What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia (also known as Chlamydia trachomatis) is the most
common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK (1 in
10 sexually active adults under the age of 25 are tested
positive for Chlamydia).
How is Chlamydia caught?
You can catch Chlamydia by having sex without a condom. This
includes unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Anyone who is
sexually active can catch Chlamydia, but it is most commonly found
in young people under the age of 25. Age is no barrier, even older
people get Chlamydia. Your chances of getting Chlamydia increase
when you change partners, especially the more you have.
Babies can also get Chlamydia from their infected mothers during
It is also possible to catch Chlamydia from sharing sex-toys
with an infected sexual partner.
How will I know if I have Chlamydia?
Many people have no symptoms and feel well.
These people will never know they have an infection unless they get
tested or one of their sexual partners tests positive for it, which
should make them think that a test would be a good idea too. When
there are no symptoms, Chlamydia can go undetected for a long time
but may still be active and cause long term problems with
fertility, particularly for women.
A small proportion of people with Chlamydia do get symptoms:
For a man this may include
- Pain or discomfort when passing urine.
- Discharge or fluid coming out of the end of the penis.
- Discomfort or swelling in the testicles.
- Occasionally sticky red eyes (conjunctivitis), sore swollen
joints, skin rashes and sometimes anal discharge.
For a woman this may include:
- Pain or discomfort when passing urine
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- Bleeding between periods or after sex
- Pain in your lower abdomen (lower belly/tummy)
- Change in vaginal discharge
- Occasionally Chlamydia can cause sticky red eyes
(conjunctivitis), sore swollen joints, skin rashes and sometimes
How do I get tested for Chlamydia?
If you, or your partner, are worried that you may have
caught Chlamydia you should come to a Sandyford clinic for a sexual
health check up. You can come to see us without having to see your
It is easy to test for Chlamydia - a urine test for men and a
self-taken vaginal swab for women may be all that is required, if
you have no symptoms. You will then get your Chlamydia test result
in about one week's time. Treatment can then be given if you are
found to have caught Chlamydia.
If you have symptoms the health care professional that you see
will recommend that you have swab tests to identify the cause of
your symptoms there and then, so that initial treatment can be
started immediately. A swab test uses a very small cotton-bud to
collect a specimen from the vagina or the penis. Chlamydia
can also be detected by using a urine test.
Some pharmacies and chemists offer testing services for
Chlamydia. Your GP may offer testing too.
How is Chlamydia treated?
If you test positive for Chlamydia you will be offered treatment
with antibiotics. It is easy to treat. The most common antibiotic
used is azithromycin which is given as a single dose. You will be
asked not to have sex with your sexual partner(s) until they have
been tested and treated even if they have no symptoms. It is
possible to catch again if they have not been treated properly.
Sometimes, a different antibiotic might be chosen for you. This
is called doxycycline, which is a course of tablets to be taken for
If you are allergic to any antibiotics, think you might be
pregnant or taking any other medicines such as the contraceptive
pill then you must tell the doctor or nurse before they treat
Do I need to tell my partner, or my ex-partners or
anyone else that I've had sex with?
Yes. Sexual health professionals called health advisors will
talk to you about how to decide who you need to tell. Usually, we
will ask you to look at the last 3 to 6 months (or your last sexual
partner if it was longer than that) so that they can be offered the
chance to get tested and treated. Our staff can also tell you the
best way to tell people. The clinic can also arrange to tell people
for you, with your permission. This process is called "partner
notification". They will be given information that they may have
been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection and that they
should have a check-up. Your details will not be given to anyone -
your information is kept safe and confidential.
Nobody can make you tell your partner(s) but it is strongly
recommended that you do because you might get re-infected from an
untreated partner or they may infect another person just like you
if they have a new partner themselves. Untreated infection can lead
to serious illness.
How do I protect myself from getting Chlamydia
Once you have been treated you should use condoms with any new
partner and that will help to prevent future re-infection. Condoms
are the best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections
including HIV. Practising safer sex saves lives. Condoms should be
used for vaginal, oral and anal sex.
Does Chlamydia trachomatis cause problems if I am
If Chlamydia is present and untreated at the time you give birth
it is possible that your baby could develop an eye infection. You
might see your baby has a sticky eye, this can be treated with a
short course of antibiotics. Rarely, babies can occasionally get
ear and chest infections too.
What about trying to get pregnant?
For women who have had Chlamydia more than once there is more
chance of it causing problems such as:
- Ectopic pregnancy - this is when a pregnancy develops outside
of the womb and can be life threatening.
- Infertility - difficulty in becoming pregnant due to internal
- Pelvic inflammatory disease.
For men who have untreated Chlamydia there is also a risk that
damage might affect the testicles causing problems with pain and
If you are sexually active you should come to a Sandyford clinic for a sexual
health check up.