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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 childbirth.

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/pelvic area)
  • Change in vaginal discharge
  • Occasionally Chlamydia can cause sticky red eyes (conjunctivitis), sore swollen joints, skin rashes and sometimes anal discharge.

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 GP first.

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 7 days.

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 you to ensure that the drugs chosen do not react with each other.

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 sexual 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 again?

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 pregnant?

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 that 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:

For men who have untreated Chlamydia there is also a risk that damage might affect the testicles causing problems with pain and infertility.

If you are sexually active you should come to a Sandyford clinic for a sexual health check up.