Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK.
It's passed on from one person to another through unprotected sex (sex without a condom) and is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults.
Symptoms of chlamydia
Most people with chlamydia don't notice any symptoms and don't know they have it.
If you do develop symptoms, you may experience:
- pain when urinating
- unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum (back passage)
- in women, pain in the tummy, bleeding during or after sex and bleeding between periods
- in men, pain and swelling in the testicles
How do you get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection. The bacteria are usually spread through sex or contact with infected genital fluids (semen or vaginal fluid).
You can get chlamydia through:
- unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys that aren't washed or covered with a new condom each time they're used
- your genitals coming into contact with your partner's genitals - this means you can get chlamydia from someone even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
- infected semen or vaginal fluid getting into your eye
It can also be passed by a pregnant woman to her baby - read about the complications of chlamydia for more information about this.
Chlamydia can't be passed on through casual contact, such as kissing and hugging, or from sharing baths, towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or cutlery.
Is chlamydia serious?
Although chlamydia doesn't usually cause any symptoms and can normally be treated with a short course of antibiotics, it can be serious if it's not treated early on.
If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your body and lead to long-term health problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), epididymo-orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) and infertility. It can also sometimes cause reactive arthritis.
This is why it's important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have chlamydia.
Read more about the complications of chlamydia.
Getting tested for chlamydia - we are here to help
Getting tested for chlamydia is really easy. You can either drop into one of our clinics or request a free postal test kit online.
All of our clinics offer free testing - in fact we ask everybody who attends a clinic if they would like a test. Our clinics offer a fast track system, meaning you mightn't have to wait for your chlamydia test. When you arrive at clinic please ask our receptionist about the fast track criteria. Download our clinic timetable.
If you don’t want to attend one of our clinics, but would still like a test you can request a free postal test kit online. The test is quick, easy to use and confidential. A simple urine* or self-taken swab (for women) is all you need to do. Kits, along with step by step instructions, are sent to an address of your choice and are discreetly packaged. A freepost envelope allows you to return your sample for testing and we can text your results to you 7-10 days later.
*if you are a man who has sex with men a urine test is not the best test for you. Please pop into one of our clinics to speak to a member of the team.
How do we treat chlamydia?
Chlamydia can usually be treated easily with antibiotics. You may be given some tablets to take all on one day, or a longer course of capsules to take for a week.
You shouldn't have sex until you and your current sexual partner have finished your treatment. If you had the one-day course of treatment, you should avoid having sex for a week afterwards.
It's important that your current sexual partner and any other sexual partners you've had during the last six months are also tested and treated to help stop the spread of the infection. We can help you contact your sexual partner(s).
Read more about treating chlamydia.
Anyone who is sexually active can catch chlamydia. You're most at risk if you have a new sexual partner or don't use a barrier method of contraception, such as a condom, when having sex.
You can help to prevent the spread of chlamydia by:
- using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
- using a condom to cover the penis during oral sex
- using a dam (a piece of thin, soft plastic or latex) to cover the female genitals during oral sex or when rubbing female genitals together
- not sharing sex toys
If you do share sex toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom between each person who uses them.
Download the Family Planning Association chlamydia leaflet.