The only way to be certain that you have chlamydia is to be tested. If you suspect you could have chlamydia, it is important not to put off having a test done.
Early diagnosis and treatment of chlamydia will reduce the risk of any complications developing. Complications that arise from long-term chlamydial infection are much more difficult to treat.
The accuracy of chlamydia testing depends on what kind of test is used. Recommended tests are over 90% accurate in picking up the infection, shop bought tests may be less reliable.
There are different ways to test for chlamydia:
Women can be tested for chlamydia by taking a swab from the cervix (neck of the womb) or using a urine sample.
In recent years tests have been developed that allow women to carry them out at home, by using a urine sample, or by taking a swab themselves from the lower vagina. The sample is put into a container and sent to a laboratory to be tested.
Routine cervical screening tests do not detect chlamydia. Ask your doctor or nurse if you also wish to be tested for chlamydia.
In the past, the chlamydia test for men involved putting a swab into the opening of the urethra at the tip of the penis to collect a sample of cells. A urine test is now commonly used. This method is slightly less reliable than using a swab, but it is a much easier and less uncomfortable.
Testing for non-genital chlamydia
If you have had anal or oral sex, a swab of calls may be collected from your rectum or throat, but this is not done routinely.
If you have symptoms of conjunctivitis, such as discharge from the eyes, a swab may be taken to collect cells from your eye.
When to get tested
Statistics from the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) in England show that you are more at risk of becoming infected with chlamydia if you are under 25, have a new sexual partner, or have had more than one sexual partner in the past year and have not used condoms.
It is recommended that you consider getting tested for chlamydia if:
- you or your partner think you have symptoms,
- you have had unprotected sex with a new partner,
- you or your partner have unprotected sex with other people,
- you have an STI,
- a sexual partner tells you that they have an STI,
- during a vaginal examination your nurse or doctor tells you that the cells of your cervix are inflamed or there is discharge, or
- you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
Where to get tested
There are a number of different places you can go to for a chlamydia test, you can chose the place most comfortable and convenient for you:
- a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic,
- your GP surgery,
- a contraceptive and young people's clinic, or
- pharmacists where you can buy a chlamydia test to do at home - some tests may be more reliable than others so it is best to ask your pharmacist for advice.
The National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) offers free tests to men and women under 25 who have been sexually active. The programme runs across the UK and can help you access local chlamydia screening services. The screening takes place in a variety of community settings, including GP surgeries, military bases, contraceptive clinics, sexual health and GUM clinics, pharmacies, gynaecology departments and youth centres. To find out more, visit the NCSP website or call the sexual health helpline on 0800 567 123.
You can find details of your nearest sexual health or GUM clinic in the phone book, or by using the local health service search. You can attend these clinics at any age, even if you are less than 16 years of age (the age of consent for sex), and all results are treated confidentially.