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What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that often doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms.

It is one of the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infections, with around 200,000 new diagnoses of chlamydia each year in England alone. Most cases are in under 25s.

Although there may be no symptoms, chlamydia can still be passed on during sex.

Left untreated, chlamydia, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which increases the risk of infertility, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.

For men, untreated chlamydia can lead to swollen testicles or orchitis, reactive arthritis, Reiter's syndrome, and infertility.

Chlamydia does not get passed on by kissing, casual contact, toilet seats, baths, towels, pools or cutlery.

Chlamydia symptoms in women

For up to 80% of women with chlamydia, no symptoms are experienced. When there are symptoms, they include:

Chlamydia symptoms in men

For around 50% of men, chlamydia causes no noticeable symptoms. When there are symptoms, they include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Testicle pain

For both men and women, chlamydia can affect the throat if it was passed on through oral sex. The anus can be affected after anal sex, and it can also be spread by sharing sex toys. In some cases, the eyes can be affected if semen or vaginal fluid came into contact with them.

A baby can be infected during delivery if the mum has untreated chlamydia.

Chlamydia diagnosis

Early chlamydia testing and treatment is important to help avoid complications.

Reasons for having a chlamydia test include:

  • Noticing symptoms for you or your partner
  • Being told a partner or former partner has chlamydia
  • Having unprotected sex with new or other partners
  • Split condom
  • Planning a pregnancy or being pregnant
  • After a pelvic examination if a nurse or doctor advises it.

A chlamydia test and diagnosis is done using a swab test of the affected area or a urine test.

Men and women under 25 can get tested as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP). This may be available through colleges, contraception clinics, sexual health clinics, GP practices or pharmacies.

Home test kits are available, but the NHS warns that the accuracy of these can vary.


Chlamydia treatment

Chlamydia is treated with a course, or a single dose, of antibiotics. This cures the condition in 95% of cases.

Follow your doctor’s advice with regards to when it’s safe to have sex again.

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about pregnancy, breastfeeding or contraception with chlamydia treatment.

Partners should also be told about the infection so they can be tested and treated for chlamydia.

A sexual health clinic can get in touch with partners in confidence if you prefer.

Your healthcare professional may recommend a re-test 3 months after treatment.

Chlamydia prevention

To reduce your risk of a chlamydia infection:

  • Use condoms during vaginal or anal sex
  • For oral sex, cover the penis with a condom, or female genitals with a latex dam
  • Don't share sex toys
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 07, 2017

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