What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which affects both men and women. It is spread through sexual intercourse or contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid.
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK. It is particularly common in people under 25. According to the NHS, almost 7 in every 10 diagnosed cases is in someone under the age of 25.
In many cases, chlamydia has no symptoms and can therefore go undetected. If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse or changed sexual partners since the last time you had a sexual health checkup, then it is strongly recommended that you have a chlamydia test as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia often doesn’t present any symptoms. For this reason, it is important to get regular sexual health checkups.
The most common symptoms of chlamydia are:
- Pain when urinating
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
- In women: stomach pain, bleeding during or after sex, and bleeding between periods
- In men: pain and swelling in the testicles
If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms you need to see your GP or local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic to be tested for chlamydia.
How do you get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is spread through sexual intercourse or contact with an infected person. Chlamydia can be transmitted through:
- Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
- Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals - chlamydia can be spread without penetration or ejaculation
- Infected semen or vaginal fluid entering your eye
- Sharing sex toys that haven’t been washed or covered with a new condom each time they’re used
How can you treat chlamydia?
Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics. Chlamydia is treated with either Azithromycin or Doxycycline.
If you have chlamydia, it is important that your current sexual partner and any other recent sexual partners are also tested and treated. Sexual partners within the previous six months should also be notified so they can get tested and treated for the infection. This is to prevent re-infection to yourself and to prevent the spread of the disease.
You should not have sex for at least one week after you have finished your antibiotic treatment. This allows the antibiotics to kill off all the bacteria and reduces the chances of you infecting your sexual partner or getting reinfected.
It is important that you see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have chlamydia and you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Read more about this on the Sexwise website.
How can you try to prevent chlamydia?
There are a few ways to prevent the spread of chlamydia. You can prevent the spread of chlamydia by:
- Using a condom every time you have anal, vaginal or oral sex
- Not sharing sex toys
- Using a dam to cover the female genitals during oral sex
It is always important to practice safe sex. Practicing safe sex prevents unwanted pregnancy as well as significantly reduces your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.