Chlamydia: Symptoms, Testing and Treatment

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK. It's passed on through unprotected sex (sex without a condom) and is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults. If you live in England, are under 25 and are sexually active, it's recommended that you get tested for chlamydia every year or when you change sexual partner.

What is chlamydia?

Known as the ‘silent’ bacterial infection because symptoms can go undetected, chlamydia is one of the most commonly sexually transmitted infections, particularly in young people. Passed through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, or contact with a person carrying the bacteria, it can infect the rectum, throat or eyes and cause long-term health and fertility issues.

what is chalmydia

Symptoms of chlamydia

If you do develop symptoms, you may experience:

  • Pain when peeing

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum (back passage)

  • In women, pain in the tummy, bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods

  • In men, pain and swelling in the testicles

  • Itching or burning in the urethra

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.

Worried you might have chlamydia?

If you’re worried that you might have chlamydia, the following information will help you to identify what to look for. If you recognise any of the symptoms, go to your sexual health clinic, or if you prefer, get in touch with your local Alphega Pharmacist who can help you to get further advice. Getting tested is simple and painless, and if diagnosed, can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Chlamydia and pregnancy

If you’re pregnant and think you have chlamydia you must seek medical advice immediately because you could pass the infection on to your baby resulting in conjunctivitis or pneumonia. Untreated chlamydia in pregnancy may also increase the risk of premature birth or low birth weight.

Getting tested for chlamydia

Testing for chlamydia is done with a urine test or a swab test. You don't always need a physical examination by a nurse or doctor.

Anyone can get a free and confidential chlamydia test at a sexual health clinic, a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or a GP surgery.

People under 25 years old can also get tested by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP). This is often in places such as pharmacies, contraception clinics or colleges. If you live in England, you're under 25 and you're sexually active, you should get tested for chlamydia every year or when you change sexual partner.

Clinical test

How chlamydia is treated

  • The chlamydia test involves taking a vaginal swab for women or a urine sample for men. Samples are sent for testing and once results are returned, if positive can easily be treated with antibiotics.

  • Chlamydia can usually be treated easily with antibiotics. You may be given some tablets to take all on 1 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 treatment. If you had the 1-day course of treatment, you should avoid having sex for a week afterwards.

  • It's important that your current sexual partner and any other recent sexual partners you've had are also tested and treated to help stop the spread of the infection.

  • You may be asked to go back to the clinic if you have sex before your treatment has finished, don’t take your medication properly, your symptoms don’t go away or you’re pregnant.

Please ask your pharmacist in confidence about treatment for chlamydia.