Chlamydia is the most common STI. It’s a bacterial infection. It's easy to treat with a course of antibiotics.
How do you get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is passed on through sexual contact, like oral, vaginal or anal sex. It can also be passed on by sharing sex toys.
You cannot get chlamydia from kissing, hugging, towels, or toilet seats, as the bacteria cannot survive outside the body for long.
Symptoms of chlamydia
Most people who get chlamydia will not get any symptoms. You can have the infection without knowing it. So it’s important to get tested.
If you do have symptoms, they can take a few weeks to appear. You might notice:
unusual discharge from your penis or vagina
pain when peeing
pain or bleeding during, or after, sex
irregular periods or bleeding between periods
If you have any symptoms of chlamydia, you should visit your local sexual health clinic.
Getting tested for chlamydia
Chlamydia does not show in tests straight away. It can take up to 2 weeks (14 days) for it to show in test results. So to get an accurate result, you should wait at least 2 weeks (14 days) after sexual contact before you get a test.
You can get tested at your nearest clinic, or you can order a postal test to do at home.
To test for chlamydia in or around your genitals, you’ll need to do a vaginal swab or take a urine sample.
For anal chlamydia, you’ll be offered a rectal swab. For chlamydia in the mouth or throat, called oral chlamydia, you'll do a throat swab.
With SH:24 home STI tests, you can test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea from the same samples.
How to avoid chlamydia
You can help stop the spread of chlamydia by:
using condoms for vaginal or anal sex
using a condom or dental dam during oral sex
washing sex toys or covering them with a fresh condom before sharing with another person
You can get free condoms at sexual health clinics.
Regular testing helps reduce the spread of STIs. We recommend you test at least once a year. If you regularly have sex with new partners, we recommend testing every 3 months.
Is chlamydia serious?
All sexually transmitted infections can be serious if they are not treated quickly. Without treatment, chlamydia can cause long-term health problems. Fortunately, it’s easy to treat.
If you have a vulva, chlamydia can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which affects other parts of your reproductive system. This can cause ongoing pain, problems with getting pregnant and increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops outside of the womb).
It can also cause problems during pregnancy. And it can be passed on to your baby during birth. If this happens, the baby can develop infections in the chest or eyes.
If you have a penis, untreated chlamydia can cause infections in your testicles and make them painful and swollen. This is called epididymitis.
Treatment for chlamydia
Chlamydia is treated with a course of antibiotics, usually as tablets. You can get a second test 6 weeks after your treatment to check that the infection has cleared.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, you should not have any sex until 7 days after you have completed your treatment. If you have sex before your treatment is finished, you can pass the infection on to your partners.
If you use our home STI tests, we’ll text you your results as soon as they are available. If you need treatment, we will help you get it.
You can get treatment for chlamydia from your local sexual health clinic, your GP or online service.
Telling your partner
If you have chlamydia, you should tell your current partners and anyone else that you’ve had sex with in the last 6 months. They can have chlamydia without knowing it, so it‘s important that they get a test.
When you get treatment for chlamydia, the sexual health service should offer to help you with telling your partners. They can help you do this anonymously, so you can let partners know they’ve had contact with an infection, without giving them your name.