Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) – especially amongst people aged 25 or under.
It is also one of the easiest STDs to treat and cure. But, many people don’t realise they have chlamydia as they don’t get any noticeable symptoms.
If chlamydia is left untreated, it can lead to complications and serious health issues.
Chlamydia symptoms usually show between one to three weeks into the infection. Most people with chlamydia either don’t have any signs, or the symptoms are so mild they don’t realise they have been infected.
The symptoms of chlamydia differ between men and women.
Men’s chlamydia symptoms include:
- burning or itching in the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body through the penis)
- pain when urinating
- pain and swelling in the testicles
- whitest, cloudy or watery discharge from the penis
Women’s chlamydia symptoms include:
- a change in vaginal discharge
- bleeding between periods or after sex
- pain during sex
- pain in the belly or lower back
- pain when urinating
You can also catch chlamydia in other parts of the body, including:
- Rectum (back passage) – chlamydia may cause discomfort and discharge
- Throat – chlamydia is usually symptom-free
- Eyes – chlamydia can cause discharge (conjunctivitis), pain and redness
What causes chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis).
The chlamydia bacteria are commonly found in the entrance to the womb (the cervix) in women and the urethra (tube where urine comes out) in men. The bacteria can also be found in the eye, throat and rectum.
Anyone sexually active can catch chlamydia through sex or contact with infected genital fluids (semen or vaginal fluid).
How is chlamydia passed on?
Chlamydia is usually passed from one person to another through sexual contact.
You can catch chlamydia if you come into contact with the semen or vaginal fluid of someone who is already infected with chlamydia.
Chlamydia is most commonly spread by:
- anal or vaginal sex without using a condom
- sharing sex toys that aren’t covered with a condom or which haven’t been washed between uses
Chlamydia can also be spread by giving or receiving oral sex with someone infected. The risk of contracting it can be reduced if you cover the genitals with a condom or an oral dam (latex square that sits over the vagina or anus).
It is unclear if chlamydia can be spread by transferring infected semen or vaginal fluid to another person’s genitals using your fingers or rubbing female genitals together.
What we do know is that you can’t get chlamydia from:
- sharing a bath or towel
- sharing cups, plates or cutlery
- swimming pools
- toilet seats
How will I know if I have chlamydia?
The only way to know if you have chlamydia is to take a test.
You should take a chlamydia test if:
- you or your partner have or think you might have chlamydia symptoms
- you have recently had sex with a new partner without using protection
- you or your partner had sex with other partners without using protection
- your doctor or nurse tells you that your cervix is inflamed or there is unusual discharge during a vaginal examination
- a sexual partner means you they have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- you have another STD
You could test positive for chlamydia even if your partner tests negative. The only way to ensure you don’t have chlamydia is to test yourself.
If you test positive for chlamydia, it may be wise to test for other STDs as you can have more than one STD at the same time.
How to test for chlamydia
The chlamydia test available from Test2Go uses a urine sample for non-invasive sample collection, which can be done in the privacy of your own home. The package contains a complete set of instructions on properly collecting, storing, and returning your sample to the lab. All tests come with a free 24-hour Royal Mail return label.
You will receive your test result within three working days of your sample arriving back at our laboratory.
Where can I get a chlamydia test?
As well as buying a private chlamydia test from Test2Go, you can also get tested for chlamydia from
- your doctor
- a sexual health clinic
- a contraception clinic
- some pharmacies
If you are a woman under 25 years old who lives in England, you may be offered a chlamydia test as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP). The NCSP aims to identify people without symptoms to reduce the complications of untreated infection. Untreated chlamydia can cause health complications, especially in women, such as ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, which are 95% effective if taken according to instructions. Treatment is free through the NHS and the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.
Should I tell my partner if I test positive for chlamydia?
If you take a chlamydia test and it comes back positive, then you must tell any sexual partners you have so that they can get tested. This will help prevent them from re-infecting you or passing it on to someone else.
How to protect yourself from chlamydia and other STDs
It is possible to get an STD by having sex with someone who currently has an STD, even if they have no symptoms.
You can take some steps to reduce the risk of catching an STD or passing one on to someone else, and these include:
- Avoiding sharing sex toys. If you share them, cover them with a new condom or wash them between uses.
- Use condoms (external male or internal female) every time you have sex
- When having oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis or a dam to cover the anus or vulva