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what is Chlamydia

Chlamydia is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which means that you get it through having unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia.

How you get chlamydia?

unprotected anal sex

unprotected vaginal sex

unprotected oral sex

your genitals coming into contact with your partner's genitals

sharing sex toys when they are not washed or covered with a new condom between each person who uses them

Sexual fluid from the penis can pass chlamydia from one person to another even if the penis does not enter the vigina, anus or mouth.

This means you can get chlamydia from genital contact with someone who has the infection even if there is no penetration or ejaculation.

Chlamydia cannot be passed on through casual contact, including kissing and hugging, or from sharing baths, towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or cutlery.

Infected semen can cause conjunctivitis if it gets into someone’s eye.

Most people who have chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms.

If you do get signs and symptoms, these usually appear between one and three weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person. For some people the symptoms occur many months later, or not until the infection has spread.

Chlamydia in the rectum, throat or eyes.

Chlamydia can infect the rectum, eyes or throat if you have unprotected anal or oral sex. If infected semen comes into contact with the eyes you can also develop conjunctivitis.

Infection in the rectum can cause discomfort, pain, bleeding or discharge.

In the eyes, chlamydia can cause irritation, pain, swelling and discharge the same as conjunctivitis.

Infection in the throat is less common and usually causes no symptoms.

What does the chlamydia test involve?

The tests for chlamydia are simple and painless.

Most people can have the test carried out using a urine sample.

People who have had anal or oral sex might have a swab taken from their rectum or throat. This isn’t done on everyone.

A swab test (a small cotton bud). The swab is used to gently wipe the area where you might have chlamydia, to collect some cells. The cells are then tested for infection.

If you have symptoms in your eye, such as discharge or inflammation, a swab test might be taken to collect cells from your eyelid.

How soon after sex can I get a chlamydia test?

You might be advised to repeat the test if it was less than two weeks since you had sex, as sometimes the infection could be in its early stages.

It is recommended that you get tested for chlamydia if:

you or your partner think you have any symptoms

you've had unprotected sex with a new partner

you’ve had a split condom

you or your partner have unprotected sex with other people

you think you have an STI

a sexual partner tells you they have an STI

Complications in women

Many women who have had chlamydia will not become infertile or have an ectopic pregnancy.

If you have had chlamydia you will not normally be offered any routine tests to see if you are fertile unless you or your partner are having difficulty in getting pregnant. If you are concerned, talk to your doctor or practice nurse

Complications in men


Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra (urine tube) that runs along the underside of the penis. Symptoms include: 

a white cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis

pain or a burning sensation when you urinate

the urge to urinate often

irritation and soreness around the tip of the penis


The main symptoms of epididymitis are swelling and tenderness in the epididymis. The epididymis is part of a man’s reproductive system and carries sperm from the testicles. If the testicles are affected it is called epididymo-orchitis.

A chlamydia infection in the epididymis can cause inflammation, swelling and tenderness inside the ball sack. A few men will notice that the whole of the balls are red and tender. Infection can lead to a build-up of fluid in the affected area, or even an abscess. If left untreated, epididymitis can sometimes lead to infertility.

Reactive arthritis

Chlamydia can cause a reactive arthritis (inflammation of the joints). In some people the arthritis develops as part of a syndrome and they also develop inflammation of the urethra (urethritis) and the eyes (conjunctivitis).

Reactive arthritis is more likely to occur in men than women. Symptoms usually get better in 3-12 months although they can return after this. Symptoms can usually be controlled by painkillers, such as ibuprofen. Some people will need to see a joint specialist if their symptoms are severe.

How reliable is a chlamydia test?

The accuracy of tests varies, depending on the type of test used. Recommended tests are 90-95% sensitive. This means that they will detect chlamydia in most people who have the infection. Some tests you can buy may be less reliable.

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