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STIs - Chlamydia

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Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Find out how to protect yourself, and where to go for testing and treatment.

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection, most commonly spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Not everybody with chlamydia gets symptoms. But symptoms in men can include:

  • White, cloudy or watery discharge from the penis.
  • Pain when peeing.
  • Painful swelling of the testicles.

Symptoms in women can include:

  • Pain and/or bleeding during sex.
  • Bleeding after sex.
  • Unusual discharge.
  • Pain when peeing.
  • Bleeding between periods and/or heavier periods.

The National Chlamydia Screening Programme (under-25s) has more information on chlamydia.

Symptoms can take one to three weeks to appear or can take months, and 75% of people infected with chlamydia don't have any symptoms.

How will I know if I've got it?

You can only be sure if you have a test.

Your local sexual health clinic, genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or community contraceptive clinic can test you for STIs free of charge, and all advice and treatment is completely confidential. Find your nearest clinic.

If you go to a clinic you don't have to give your real name, as long as the clinic can contact you with your results (this can be on your mobile phone). Your GP will not be told of your visit unless you want them to be.

Young people under 25 can get tested for chlamydia for free as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (England only) at various places, including:

  • young person's clinics, such as Brook,
  • clubs,
  • colleges,
  • GUM clinics,
  • community contraceptive clinics (Find sexual health services),
  • GP surgeries, and 
  • some pharmacies.

Men and woman can give a urine sample, and women can take a vaginal swab that can be tested.

To find out more and to find your nearest screening site, visit the fpa website, or under-25s can go to the National Chlamydia Screening Programme website.

What happens if I don't get it treated?

It won't go away by itself but chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics, especially if it's found early. If untreated, it can cause an infection in the testicles in men, and possibly reduce fertility.

In women chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can result in long-term pain, blocked fallopian tubes, infertility and ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy occurs outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tube).

Protect yourself

Always use a condom. They're the only thing that will help protect you from catching an STI, and will help prevent an unintended pregnancy.

It only takes one instance of unprotected sex (anal, oral or vaginal) to end up with an STI, even if the man withdraws before he ejaculates (comes).

Always use condoms that carry the European CE mark, a recognised safety standard. Don't use novelty condoms if they haven't got the CE mark as they don't meet safety standards.

Join 'say yes to the test' on Facebook to see what young people have to say about getting tested for chlamydia.

Medical Review: October 11, 2009

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