Chlamydia-what is it and how does it affect me ?

What is Chlamydia ?

Chlamydia is now one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections, affecting approximately one in ten young people in the UK.

Although easily cured with antibiotics, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women if left untreated.

It can also cause complications in men and lead to epididymitis, urethritis and Reiters disease

Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis. Between 2004 and 2005, the number of confirmed cases of chlamydia in the UK rose by 5%, from 104,733 to 109,958.

Chlamydia is the single largest cause of sub fertility in Western Europe. Chlamydia is ofter carried without symptoms which is why screening at risk populations for Chlamydia is so important in helping to prevent the complications of Chlamydia

 How do you catch Chlamydia ?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is transmitted (passed on) from one person to another during intimate sexual contact. You can catch chlamydia through:

  • having unprotected vaginal sex,
  • having unprotected anal sex,
  • having unprotected oral sex, or
  • having genital contact with an infected partner.

Chlamydia can also be passed from a mother to her baby during childbirth. Although no obvious symptoms are immediately apparent, the infection will often develop two weeks after birth, and can result in complications such as pneumonia.

What symptoms can Chlamydia cause ?

Chlamydia is often called the ‘silent’ disease due to the lack of noticeable symptoms. 

Because of this lack of symptoms many people are unaware that they have Chlamydia and can pass it on unknowingly. Around 50% of men and 70% of women who have the chlamydia infection will have no symptoms at all and many others have minro symptoms that they may not act on.

In women, genital chlamydia does not often cause any symptoms. However, some women may have ‘non-specific symptoms’ such as:

  • cystitis,
  • a change in their vaginal discharge, and
  • mild lower abdominal pain.

If left untreated, the chlamydia infection may lead to the following symptoms:

  • pelvic pain,
  • pain during sexual intercourse, or occasionally,
  • bleeding between periods.

The chlamydial infection can also spread to the womb, and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID is a major cause of infertility, ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage

A man with chlamydia commonly experiences a urethral discharge from the penis and may experience some discomfort on urinating (passing urine)

If you think you may have Chlamydia then see your GP or contact your local STI or GU clinic who will be able to arrange testing and treatment

How is Chlamydia diagnosed ?

Chlamydia can be diagnosed in a women by a cervical swab peformed by a doctor or nurse in a GU clinic, hospital clinic or a GP surgery and in a man by an urethral swab performed by doctor in a clinic or GP surgery

It can also be diagnosed by a simple urine sample which can be performed at home. The urine samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Click here to view home chlamydia urine lab tests

How is Chlamydia treated ?

The good news is that Chlamydia is easily treated with a course of antibiotics which are prescribable by your GP or by a hospital or GU clinic. It is very important that to prevent re-infection both partners are treated.

Can I screen myself for Chlamydia ?

Yes, for the last couple of years services have been available to allow individuals to screen themselves for Chlamydia. As chlamydia often has no symptoms , screening at home allows early diagnosis & treatment

For more information on Chlamydia click here

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