Chlamydia is one of the most common STI’s in the UK and is easily passed on during unprotected sex (sex without a condom).

Most people don't experience any symptoms, so they are unaware they're infected. It is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults, and it's recommended that if you are under 25 and sexually active, you test for chlamydia every year or when you change sexual partner.

Signs and Symptoms

In women, chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a vaginal discharge, pain in the lower abdomen during or after sex, and bleeding during or after sex or between periods. It can also cause heavy periods.

In men, chlamydia can cause pain or a burning sensation when urinating, a white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis, and pain or tenderness in the testicles.

It's also possible to have a chlamydia infection in your rectum, throat or eyes.

Causes of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which is passed on by unprotected sex or the exchange of infected genital fluids.

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.

Testing for Chlamydia

Chlamydia can't be passed on through casual contact, such as kissing and hugging, or from sharing baths, towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or cutlery.

If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious long-term health problems if left untreated, including infertility.

Testing for chlamydia involves a urine test or by taking a swab of the affected area. Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics.

Using the male condom or a Femidom (the female condom) reduces the risk of picking up or passing on Chlamydia.

Treatment for Chlamydia

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

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

Sexual health or GUM clinics can help you contact your sexual partners. Either you or the clinic can speak to them, or they can be sent a note advising them to get tested. The note won't have your name on it, so your confidentiality will be protected.

Preventing Chlamydia

Anyone who is sexually active can catch chlamydia. You can prevent the spread by using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex, and also using a condom during oral sex. You should also cover the female genitals during oral sex using a dental dam, which is a square of latex or plastic.

If you share sex toys, you should wash them thoroughly between uses, and especially if you have multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner.