What is Chlamydia and how is it passed on?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which passes between people through sexual activity including vaginal, anal and oral sex. It can also be passed on through sharing sex toys.

Untreated chlamydia can lead to complications such as infertility, pregnancy in the tubes (ectopic pregnancy), long term pain in the lower abdomen (women), testicular pain and arthritis. It can also cause abscesses in the rectum.

How common is it?

It is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Anyone who is sexually active can catch chlamydia from someone who is infected, however it is more common in young people between the ages of 16 and 25.

What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

80% of women and just over 50% of men will not experience any symptoms at all so often the only way of knowing you have it is to take a chlamydia test.

Chlamydia symptoms in men can include:

  • A clear or creamy discharge from the penis.
  • Burning and stinging when passing urine.
  • Painful and swollen testicles.

Chlamydia symptoms in women might include:

  • A change in your normal vaginal discharge for example an increase in the amount of discharge.
  • Bleeding or spotting between your periods.
  • Pain in the lower part of the abdomen during vaginal sex.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen/pelvic area.
  • Bleeding during or after sex when you are not on your period.

In men and women infection of the rectum with Chlamydia may cause:

  • Itching around the anus.
  • Discharge from the anus.
  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied properly after passing stools.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above you should see a doctor or nurse at your local clinic as you may require an examination, extra tests and treatment.

Can Chlamydia be cured?

Chlamydia is easy to treat with antibiotics. These may be given as a one-off dose or as a course of tablets over 7 days. If you have a partner or partners with whom you have regular sex they will also need treatment in order to prevent you becoming re-infected following treatment.

How Can I protect myself from Chlamydia and the complications of Chlamydia?

Using a condom each time you have sex will reduce risk of transmission.

If you are starting a new relationship, get tested together before you start having unprotected sex.

Regular testing – for example when you have a change in sexual partner – will reduce the risk of developing the complications associated with chlamydia.

If you don’t have any symptoms but think you may have been at risk from chlamydia you can take your own test via this service.