What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmissible infection (STI) which is caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. It is the most common bacterial STI in young people in Australia. It can infect both men and women, including men who have sex with men, and often has no symptoms.
If left untreated chlamydia can cause serious infection and can affect fertility in both men and women.
How do you catch chlamydia?
Chlamydia is passed on during unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse. You can greatly reduce the chance of catching chlamydia and other STIs by using condoms. Transmission through oral sex is rare.
What are the symptoms?
In the majority of infections in men and women there are no symptoms.
Chlamydia in Women
If symptoms do occur in women they can include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge(unusual colour, smell or texture)
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (especially bleeding after sex)
- Painful intercourse
- Stinging or burning when passing urine
If chlamydia is untreated it can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which is infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID may lead to infertility and chronic pelvic pain.
Chlamydia in Men
If symptoms occur in men they can include:
- Pain or burning when passing urine
- Discharge from the penis
- Redness at the opening of the penis
- Pain or swelling in a testicle(less common)
How can you test for chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be tested for very easily, with a simple vaginal swab or a urine test for women, and with a urine test for men. If a rectal infection is suspected then an anal swab can be done. Chlamydia can occur with other STIs, and tests for these can also be done at the same time.
When should you have a chlamydia test?
You should have a chlamydia test if:
- You have ever had unprotected sex;
- You have had a new sexual partner since your last chlamydia test;
- You have a sexual partner who has been diagnosed as having chlamydia or another STI;
- Your sexual partner has had sex with a person who could be infected;
- You have been diagnosed as having another STI;
- You have any signs or symptoms.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydial infection is treated with oral antibiotics. This can be a single dose or a course taken over a week. If you have symptoms your doctor may prescribe a longer course of different antibiotics.
It is important to avoid sexual intercourse during treatment and for 7 days after completing treatment.
Should I tell any sexual partners?
Yes it is very important to let your sexual partner/s in the last 6 months know so that they can be checked and treated as well. There are several ways to let partners know, either by direct contact in person, a phone call or a text message. There are also websites which you can use to send an anonymous email or text message. Your doctor or nurse can help you with this.
How can I avoid catching chlamydia?
Using condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex is the best way to prevent chlamydia infection.
Where to go for advice & testing
• Your own GP or local Health Centre