February 27, 2023
What is it?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) which affects men and women. It is caused by bacteria that can go undetected for a very long time. It is a common infection with around 1 in 10 young people under the age of 25 testing positive. Most people with chlamydia do not experience any obvious symptoms and so may not realise that they have it.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with chlamydia will not have any symptoms. If symptoms are present, these usually include discharge from the penis or vagina, and pain or a burning sensation when peeing. Women may also experience pain during sex or bleeding in between periods or after sex. Men may notice some discomfort and swelling of the testicles. Symptoms of chlamydia can occur at any time in a regular sexual relationship, but they are more likely to show up between 1 and 6 weeks after having unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia. Sometimes the infection is discovered when one partner develops symptoms, but more often it is diagnosed when someone goes for a check-up. More than half of people with chlamydia have no symptoms, so if you have had sex with someone who has chlamydia, you should consider having a test. You can be at risk even if you have had unprotected sex only once.
How do you catch it?
You can catch chlamydia by having unprotected sex and by sharing sex toys. Chlamydia can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. When this happens, the baby may develop eye or chest infections. Any sexually active person can catch chlamydia although it is most common in women between the ages of 15 and 19, and men under the age of 25. You or your partner could have picked up the infection from a previous partner without even knowing it. The more sexual partners you have, the more chance you have of being infected.
If you or your partner are worried that you may have chlamydia, or any other STI, arrange to be tested. Getting tested is simple. If you have symptoms, the nurse, doctor or clinician may examine you and use a swab to take a sample from the vagina or penis. A swab looks a bit like a cotton bud, and collecting a sample only takes a few minutes and
is not painful, although it may be a little uncomfortable. People with penis' who do not have any symptoms will usually be asked to provide a urine sample. People with vaginas' who do not have any symptoms will usually take a swab themselves from the entrance to the vagina. A urine sample might be offered, although the results from this are not as accurate as a swab.
What happens if you test positive?
Test results are usually available within 7 to 14 days. A chlamydia infection is easily treated with a course of antibiotics and both you and your regular partner(s) will need treatment.
Sometimes you will be treated straight away without waiting the result of a test. For instance, if your partner(s) has tested positive. The following important points should be noted:
- You will probably be given a short course of antibiotics.
- Your current and previous partner(s) will be advised to attend for treatment and/or a test for chlamydia.
- Do not have sex, even with condoms,
- If untreated, an infection can lead to other more serious problems. In women, chlamydia may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Rarely, fertility problems (difficulty in becoming pregnant).
- If men are not treated, the infection may spread to the testicles and cause discomfort. These problems are rare but the risk increases every time you get chlamydia.
How to prevent Infection:
STIs can pass from one person to another through unprotected sex and sharing sex toys. You don't need to have lots of sexual partners to get an STI. However, you are more likely to have an STI if you have had a recent change in a sexual partner or if you have had more than two sexual partners in the last 12 months. Safer sex involves using condoms for oral sex, condoms for vaginal sex, and condoms with water-based lube for anal sex. This helps prevent infections from being passed on to your partner. Always get tested after you have a new sexual partner, and be honest with your partners about your sexual health results. Remember, safety is sexy!
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