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Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK, with 208,755 diagnoses made in England alone in 2013. Around 139,000 of those were in young people aged 15-24.

Many people with Chlamydia won’t know it, because it doesn’t always causes any symptoms.

How do I know if I have chlamydia?

It is not easy to tell if you are infected with chlamydia since symptoms are not always apparent. But when they do occur, they are usually noticeable within one to three weeks of contact and can include the following:

Chlamydia symptoms in women

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odour
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful periods
  • Abdominal pain with/without a raised temperature
  • Pain when having sex
  • Itching or burning in or around the vagina
  • Pain when urinating.

Chlamydia symptoms in men

  • Small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Burning and itching around the opening of the penis
  • Pain and swelling around the testicles.

How is chlamydia diagnosed?

There are a few different tests your doctor can use to check for chlamydia. A swab can take a sample from the urethra in men or from the cervix in women that is sent to a laboratory to be analysed. There are also other tests which check a urine sample for the presence of the bacteria.

National Chlamydia Screening Programme

You do not need to be examined to get tested for chlamydia.

Men and women under 25 can get tested as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP).

This programme offers free chlamydia testing in a variety of locations, including pharmacies, colleges and youth centres. In some areas, home test kits are available online.

Test kits are also sold in some pharmacies.

How is chlamydia treated?

If you have chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics, usually azithromycin or doxycycline. Your doctor will also recommend your partner(s) be treated as well to prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease. 

With treatment, the infection should clear up in about a week or two. It is important to finish all of your antibiotics even if you feel better. Do not have sex until you and your partner have completed the course of treatment.

What happens if I don't get my chlamydia treated?

If you do not get treated for chlamydia, you run the risk of several health problems.

  • For women. If left untreated, the infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to damage of the fallopian tubes (the tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus) or even cause infertility (the inability to have children), and untreated chlamydia infection could increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilised egg implants and develops outside the uterus). Furthermore, chlamydia may cause premature births (giving birth too early) and the infection can be passed along from the mother to her child during childbirth, causing an eye infection, blindness, or pneumonia in the newborn.
  • For men. Chlamydia can cause a condition called nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) - also called non-specific urethritis (NSU) - an infection of the urethra (the tube through which men and women pass urine), epididymitis - an infection of the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm away from the testes), or proctitis - an inflammation of the rectum.
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