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Chlamydia FAQ | Answering Common Chlamydia Questions

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Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, however, many know little about its spread or its symptoms. Here are some of the facts about chlamydia and what you can do if you think you’ve caught it.

What is Chlamydia and How Can You Catch It?

Chlamydia Trachomatis (commonly known as chlamydia) is a sexually transmitted disease (STI) that is caused by a type of bacteria. One of the main reasons that the disease is so common is due to the fact it’s often symptom-free, resulting in many being unaware that they are spreading it.

Being a bacterial infection, chlamydia is spread through sexual intercourse with someone carrying the infection, or by coming into contact with infected genital fluids – this can include sharing sex toys with somebody who has chlamydia or by ingesting infected genital fluid. Chlamydia can be transmitted without sexual penetration.

It's a common misconception that chlamydia can be caught through kissing, hugging, from toilet seats or from swimming pools – this is not true. The bacterium within chlamydia is not able to survive outside of the body and is therefore unable to survive in conditions such as swimming pools, where chlorine is present. This means that you can only catch chlamydia when infected genital fluid comes in direct contact with bodily tissues, such as through the eyes, the cervix or the urethra (the tube that enables urine to pass from the bladder).

What Are The Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Chlamydia spreads so rapidly because it often doesn’t display any symptoms. Only 30% of women and 50% of men will experience symptoms of the infection. However, symptoms can include the following:

Symptoms in Women

  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain during urination
  • Discharge from the vagina
  • Lower stomach pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal bleeding

Symptoms in Men

  • Pain during urination
  • Discharge from the penis
  • A burning or itching sensation around the area of the urethra
  • Tender testicles

Can Chlamydia Be Treated?

Chlamydia can be treated with a short course of antibiotics – Doxycycline and Azithromycin are the two treatments. Doxycycline has been proven to be 100% effective in treating the STI and has to be taken twice daily for seven days.

Azithromycin, however, is said to be 97% effective in clearing the infection yet requires you to take just one single dose only. Azithromycin also has a lower side-effect profile than Doxycycline, which makes it the more convenient choice for many people. Whichever antibiotics you choose, you must ensure they are taken exactly as the instructions state, in order for them to be effective.

What Should I Do If I Forget A Dose Of Treatment?

If you forget a dose of antibiotics, you should take it as soon as you remember, however be sure not to take two doses together (don’t take if it’s close to the time of your next dose). Although it’s unlikely that missing just one dose will stop the effectiveness of the treatment, it would be wise to take a chlamydia test once treatment has finished, to check it has still cleared the infection.

What Will Happen If Chlamydia Doesn’t Get Treated – Will It Go Away On Its Own?

If you have chlamydia you need to make sure you get treatment for it, as it’s extremely unlikely that it will go away on its own, due to the immune system being unable to recover from the infection without antibiotics. Untreated chlamydia can result in a variety of health problems for both men and women, including reactive arthritis – a condition that causes inflammation of the joints, eyes and urethra.

Women are also at risk of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – a condition that affects the reproductive system, resulting in possible complications when trying to conceive. Men are also at risk of untreated chlamydia causing infertility, as the infection can spread to the testicles and cause pain and swelling in the surrounding area.

How Long Will It Take For Chlamydia Symptoms To Appear?

Though many people will not have any symptoms of chlamydia, those that do will often experience them approximately 7-21 days of catching the infection. It’s not uncommon for people to experience symptoms of the STI months after it is transmitted, as a result of not knowing they have caught the infection and therefore leaving it untreated.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, or if your symptoms have since gone away, you may still have chlamydia and should therefore still be tested. It is advised that you start treatment immediately if you have engaged in unprotected sexual activity with someone who has been tested positive for chlamydia, whether you have symptoms or not.

Do I Need To Tell My Partner If I Test Positive For Chlamydia?

Yes, it’s important to tell any sexual partners that you have chlamydia, so that they can be treated themselves. Though you may find this conversation uncomfortable, it is vital that they are able to receive treatment for the infection, to avoid transmitting it to others (or back to you) and to minimise the risk of further health complications occurring.

How Do I Get Tested For Chlamydia?

There are a variety of different ways that you can test for chlamydia, including visiting a sexual health clinic, visiting your GP or ordering a test kit to do at home. The test involves providing a urine sample that will be sent to a lab for analysis, and results are often received back in a few days. It is advised that you get an STI test every time you change sexual partner, or after you share sex toys. You can also test yourself at home, with a variety of testing kits available such as the at home HIV test.

How Can I Lower The Risk Of Catching Chlamydia?

Here are a few ways in which you can reduce the chances of catching the infection-

  • Have regular STD tests
  • Avoid sharing sex toys (always wash them thoroughly after use)
  • Use protection methods during sexual activity, such as condoms

If you are concerned you may have a different sexually transmitted disease or infection, or have any other symptoms, you should make a visit to your local sexual health clinic or GP.