Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK. It is passed on through unprotected sex (sex without a condom) and is particularly common in sexually active teenagers and young adults.

On this page, you will find comprehensive information about chlamydia, including its symptoms, how it is transmitted, available treatments, and preventive measures.

What is Chlamydia?


Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect the genital tract, throat, and rectum. Most people with chlamydia do not notice any symptoms and are unaware that they have it. This is why getting tested regularly is crucial, especially if you are sexually active and under the age of 25.


How can you get chlamydia?


Chlamydia is primarily spread through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be transmitted by sharing sex toys that are not washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used. Genital-to-genital contact can also spread the infection, even without penetration, orgasm, or ejaculation. Additionally, a pregnant woman can pass chlamydia to her baby during childbirth.


What are the symptoms of chlamydia?


Most people with chlamydia do not experience any symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Painful urination

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum

  • Pain in the lower abdomen (in women)

  • Bleeding after sex or between periods (in women)

  • Pain and swelling in the testicles (in men)

If you suspect you may have chlamydia or are at risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is important to visit a healthcare professional for testing.


What treatment is available for chlamydia?


Chlamydia can usually be easily treated with antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for chlamydia are doxycycline and azithromycin. It is essential to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare provider. It is also important for your sexual partner(s) to be tested and treated to prevent reinfection.


Getting tested for chlamydia


Testing for chlamydia is simple and painless. It can be done using a urine test or a swab test. You can get tested at a sexual health clinic, a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic, or your GP surgery.

If you do not currently have a GP surgery, you can register with us for online and in-person healthcare services here.

In some areas, young people can order a postal testing kit online as part of the NCSP. Search for free online tests for under-25s to see if this is available in your area.

In England, if you are a sexually active woman under 25, it is recommended that you have a chlamydia test once a year and when you have sex with new or casual partners.

Similarly, sexually active men under 25 in England should also consider annual testing if they are not using condoms with new or casual partners. You can also purchase chlamydia testing kits for at-home use.


Is chlamydia serious?


While chlamydia may not usually cause symptoms, it can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. In women, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. In men, it can lead to epididymitis (inflammation of the testicles) and potentially affect fertility. Therefore, it is crucial to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you suspect you have chlamydia.


Preventing chlamydia


Chlamydia is a highly common sexually transmitted infection, and anyone who is sexually active can be at risk. However, you can take steps to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood of contracting or spreading the infection:

  1. Use condoms: Consistently and correctly using condoms during vaginal, anal, and oral sex can significantly reduce the risk of chlamydia transmission.

  2. Barrier methods for oral sex: Using a condom or a dental dam (a thin latex or plastic square) during oral sex can provide a barrier and reduce the chances of infection.

  3. Avoid sharing sex toys: If you do share sex toys, make sure to wash them thoroughly or cover them with a new condom before each use.

  4. Regular testing: It's important to get tested for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections regularly, especially if you have new or multiple sexual partners. Follow the recommended testing guidelines based on your age and sexual activity.

  5. Practice open communication: Talk openly with your sexual partner(s) about STIs, sexual health, and the importance of getting tested. Mutual understanding and responsibility can help create a safer sexual environment.


When to seek medical advice


If you experience any symptoms of chlamydia or are concerned about a potential STI infection, it's essential to seek medical advice promptly. Schedule a visit with your GP, visit a community contraceptive service, or go to a local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. These healthcare providers are experienced in diagnosing and treating STIs.

Remember, early detection and treatment of chlamydia can help prevent complications and protect your long-term health.

In conclusion, chlamydia is a prevalent sexually transmitted infection that can have serious consequences if left untreated. It's important to be aware of the symptoms, get tested regularly, and practice safe sexual behaviors. If diagnosed with chlamydia, timely treatment with antibiotics is highly effective. By taking proactive steps to prevent and manage chlamydia, you can safeguard your sexual health and well-being.


Online help for my medical condition

Get advice about specific conditions like back pain, coughs, mental health conditions and more

Get in touch

I want general health advice online

Get advice about general symptoms like tiredness, bleeding, pain or weakness

Get in touch

Administrative help form your GP practice

Request sick notes and GP letters or ask about recent tests

Get in touch

I want help for childhood problems

Get help for common childhood problems like rash, ear-ache, cold, flu, vomiting and diarrhoea

Get in touch

Our clinic locations
(more opening soon!)