Chlamydia is a bacterial infection. It is the most common STI in the UK and is easily passed on during unprotected sex.
How is Chlamydia passed on?
Chlamydia is passed on by unprotected sex through infected genital fluids when one partner is already infected. It can be passed on even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation. 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 are used
- Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals
- Infected fluid getting into your eye
- It can also be passed by a pregnant person to their baby
You can prevent the spread of Chlamydia by using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. You should also cover the vagina and the anus during oral sex using a dental dam.
If you share sex toys, you should wash them thoroughly between uses or use a new condom for each use, especially if you have multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner.
Condoms are one of the safest options to protect against chlamydia. However, they are not 100% effective as it can also be present on the skin around a person’s genitals or bottom.
Chlamydia cannot be passed on through casual contact, such as kissing or hugging, and cannot be passed through sharing baths, towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or cutlery.
How do I know if I have Chlamydia?
For people with vaginas (a front hole), chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a discharge, pain in the lower abdomen during or after sex, and bleeding during or after sex or between periods. About 3 out of 10 people with vaginas will develop symptoms. These symptoms typically happen between 1 and 3 weeks after being infected.
For people with penises, chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis, and pain or tenderness in the testicles. 5 out of 10 people with penises will develop symptoms between the 1st and 3rd week of infection.
It’s also possible to have chlamydia infection in your rectum, throat or eyes. Infections in the rectum may cause pain, discomfort, bleeding and discharge. Throat infections are less common and often don’t have any symptoms.
If you think you have any symptoms or have been exposed to chlamydia, it is important to go to a clinic for testing. The doctor or nurse at the clinic will need to take samples for testing.
The tests are simple and painless. Most of the time people with penises are asked to provide a sample of their urine for testing, and those with vagina’s are offered the choice of providing a urine sample or doing a self-taken vaginal swab.
The doctor or nurse might ask to swab your throat if you have had oral sex and your rectum if you have had anal sex to collect additional samples.
Young people can also get a test from Ruclear.
How can Chlamydia be treated?
Chlamydia can usually be treated easily with antibiotics. This ranges from a single tablet to a short course of tablets over a couple of weeks.
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. If you are worried about telling your previous partners if you have chlamydia, clinics can usually speak to these people on your behalf anonymously.
It is key to not engage in sexual activities during your treatment and a week after you have finished treatment. This will reduce the risk of re-infection for yourself and your partners.
Should I test for Chlamydia?
If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious long-term health problems including infertility, pregnancy issues, and testicular infection. Chlamydia is also most common for people under 25 who are sexually active, as well as with gay, bi and other men who have sex with men. It’s important that you get tested at least once a year and when you have sex with new or casual partners.
Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting other STI’s, including HIV.
LGV (lymphogranuloma venereum) is an STI that can also develop from chlamydia and people at most risk of it are gay, bi and men who have sex with men. This is usually an anal infection that symptoms include fever, inflammation of the rectum with bleeding or pus and ulcers.
This form of chlamydia is only tested for after a positive chlamydia test, but is treated with antibiotics.
Where can I test for Chlamydia?
BHA For Equality
0330 128 1186
Free & confidential sexual health services for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities.
George House Trust
0161 274 4499
Free & confidential support, advice and advocacy services for people living with HIV.
0345 3 30 30 30
Providing advice, support and resources for LGBT people to take control of their sexual health and wellbeing.