First the Facts

  • Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK
  • There are often no symptoms of chlamydia infection; many people do not know they have it
  • It is passed on through unprotected sex with an infected partner
  • It is easily treatable with a short course of antibiotics
  • Using condoms and getting tested regularly can help prevent catching chlamydia

How Is Chlamydia Transmitted?

  • Oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner can spread chlamydia. You can reduce this risk by using male condoms and getting tested regularly.
  • Chlamydia can also be passed on when sharing sex toys. To prevent this, you should avoid sharing sex toys or cover them with a condom and clean them carefully between uses.
  • It is also possible to catch chlamydia in your eyes. This happens when semen or vaginal fluid from an infected partner gets in your eye.
  • You cannot catch chlamydia from toilet seats, swimming pools or sharing towels or cutlery with an infected person.

How Will I Know That I Have Chlamydia?

Possible symptoms if you have a penisPossible symptoms if you have a vaginaSymptoms of infection at other sites of the body
• Discharge from the tip of the penis
• Pain when passing urine
• Pain in one or both testicles
• Vaginal discharge
• Pain when passing urine
• Lower abdominal/pelvic pain
• Pain or bleeding during or after penetrative sex
• Bleeding between periods or intermittent bleeding in women using hormonal contraception
• Rectal – usually no symptoms but you may experience anal discharge and/or pain
• Throat – usually no symptoms but you may experience a sore throat
• Eye infection (conjunctivitis) – pain, redness, discharge and swelling of eye(s)
50% of infections in men are not associated with symptoms80% of infected women do not experience any symptoms

How Can I Protect Myself?

  • The use of condoms for vaginal and anal sex and condoms or dental dams for oral sex can help to prevent transmission
  • If you want to stop using condoms with a new partner, you can both get a test and show each other the results.
  • If you have had unprotected sex with a new partner, you should both get tested so that you can be treated before passing this on to someone else.

Where and When Can I Get Tested?

  • If you have symptoms and/or a new sexual partner you should get tested.
  • This is because chlamydia doesn’t always cause symptoms, so you should still get tested with every new partner.
  • You can get tested at:
  • Any sexual health, genitourinary medicine or family planning clinic
  • Your GP
  • If you have a penis, you will be asked to provide a urine sample. If you have discharge, you may also be asked to provide a cotton swab of this, too.
  • If you have a vagina, you will be asked to provide a cotton swab of the outside and a small way inside the vagina. You can do this yourself.
  • If you have oral sex, swabs will be taken from your throat.
  • If you have receptive anal sex, where a penis is inserted into your rectum, you will be asked to provide a swab from inside your bottom.
  • These samples will be sent to a laboratory where they will be tested for samples of DNA from the chlamydia bacterium.
  • Men who have sex with men will be offered screening routinely from the throat and rectum in addition to a urine sample

What Happens If I Have Chlamydia?

  • Chlamydia can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotics.
  • If you test positive for chlamydia, it is important that recent sexual contacts are tested (the exact time frame depends on your individual circumstances). You can either contact them yourself or the clinic can do this on your behalf. If the clinic contacts your previous partners, they will keep all your details anonymous. You will also be offered testing for other STIs if you have not already had this.
  • It is important that you do not have sex until you have completed the treatment, as this will risk you infecting your partner. If you have sex before completing the treatment, your partner may give the infection back to you.
  • You may need a follow-up test to check that your infection has gone.

What If I Don’t Get Treated?

  • If you do not get treated, you could pass on the infection to others.
  • If you have a penis, the infection can spread to the testicles and cause pain and swelling. In the long term this may lead to infertility.
  • If you have a vagina, the infection can spread to your womb, tubes and ovaries. This results in a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This may lead to difficulty conceiving a baby and/or chronic pain.
  • It is important to get tested and treated as soon as possible. If your doctor thinks you have PID, they will treat you with a longer course of antibiotics.
  • Rarely, it can also cause a condition called reactive arthritis, where chlamydia infection causes inflammation of the eyes and joints.
  • If you have chlamydia and you are pregnant, you can pass this on to your baby. This can cause premature delivery (baby is born too early) and/or a low birth weight. It can also cause eye or lung problems in your baby following birth. You should be offered a chlamydia test during your booking visit when you first find out you are pregnant.


Written by: Dr David Rook and Dr Paula Briggs
Last updated: January 2021

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