What is it?
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by a bacterium, and if untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women.
What are the symptoms?
Do you have chlamydia? It can be hard to tell. More than 70% of women and 50% of men with the infection don’t show signs or symptoms. So even if everything seems normal, you may have the infection.
Common signs and symptoms of chlamydia infection may include:
- Pain during urination
- Vaginal discharge or irritation (for women)
- Painful sex (for women)
- Bleeding during or after sex (for women)
- Discharge from penis (for men)
- Itching around the urethra (the opening to the penis) (for men)
- Pain and swelling in the testicles (for men)
These symptoms may come and go. But remember—“symptom-free” doesn’t mean “infection-free.”
How do I get it?
You can get chlamydia from having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or sharing sex toys with an infected person.
What can it do to me?
If untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women.
In women, chlamydia can seriously infect the womb and fallopian tubes. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause long-term pelvic pain and affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Sometimes, it can lead to miscarriages or an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, which can be very dangerous.
Without treatment, chlamydia can also be passed on to a baby, causing pneumonia or eye infections.
In men, untreated chlamydia can lead to swelling and pain in the testicles. This condition is called epididymitis. It can also cause sterility if scar tissue blocks the tubes that carry the sperm.
What are the tests?
Usually it’s a simple urine sample. Sometimes, for women, chlamydia tests also involve taking a fluid sample from the cervix (the opening to the womb). Many women assume STI tests are also performed during the annual Pap exam. However, it’s a good idea to ask for one during your Pap exam to be sure.
For men, tests are usually taken with a urine sample. The doctor or sexual health clinic may also take a sample of discharge from the urethra. It’s also common to test the throat or rectum for infection.
Straight or LGBT, young or old, routine testing is one way to take care of your sexual health. For confidential support, testing or counselling, see your community’s sexual health clinic.
What are the treatments?
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotic pills. Even if your symptoms seem to have disappeared, it’s very important to take all your medication as directed by the doctor or sexual health clinic. You can return to having sex only after treatment is complete and the doctor or sexual health clinic says you’re in the clear.
Do I need to follow up?
It’s common that your doctor or sexual health clinic will schedule a follow-up test. These tests are just to make sure your infection has been treated effectively. These tests are usually done weeks after you’ve finished your pills.
- If you have an untreated STI like chlamydia, it’s easier to get other STIs such as HIV from someone who has it.
- It’s possible to have more than one infection at a time, so it’s important to be tested for other STIs.
How can I prevent it?
Practice safe sex. Use condoms. This will definitely lower the risk of getting chlamydia or other STIs.
How do I tell my partner?
Your partners need to be told that they could have the infection, even if there aren’t any symptoms.
If you have concerns about telling your partner(s), contact a public health nurse. The public health nurse can suggest ways to handle the situation or they will contact your partner(s) for you. Of course, your name will be kept confidential.
If you decide to talk to your partner(s) yourself, learn how to talk comfortably about it.