WHAT IS CHLAMYDIA?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis which people get through having unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia.
HOW YOU GET CHLAMYDIA?
-Unprotected anal sex
-Unprotected vaginal sex
-Unprotected oral sex
-Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals
-Sharing sex toys when they are not washed or covered with a new condom between each person who uses them
-Sexual fluid from the penis can pass chlamydia from one person to another even if the penis does not enter the vagina, anus or mouth.
This means you can get chlamydia from genital contact with someone who has the infection even if there is no penetration or ejaculation.Chlamydia cannot be passed on through casual contact, including kissing and hugging, or from sharing baths, towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or cutlery.Infected semen can cause conjunctivitis if it gets into someone’s eye.
MOST PEOPLE WHO HAVE CHLAMYDIA DON'T NOTICE ANY SYMPTOMS
If you do get signs and symptoms, these usually appear between one and three weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person. For some people the symptoms occur many months later, or not until the infection has spread.
CHLAMYDIA IN THE RECTUM, EYES OR THROAT
Chlamydia can infect the rectum, eyes or throat if you have unprotected anal or oral sex. If infected semen comes into contact with the eyes you can also develop conjunctivitis.
-Infection in the rectum can cause discomfort, pain, bleeding or discharge.
-In the eyes, chlamydia can cause irritation, pain, swelling and discharge the same as conjunctivitis.
-Infection in the throat is less common and usually causes no symptoms.
HOW SOON AFTER INTERCOURSE CAN YOU BE TESTED?
You might be advised to repeat the test if it was less than two weeks since you had sex, as sometimes the infection could be in its early stages.
It is recommended that you get tested for chlamydia if:
-You or your partner think you have any symptoms
-You’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner
-You’ve had a split condom
-You or your partner have unprotected sex with other people
-You think you have an STI
-A sexual partner tells you they have an STI
COMPLICATIONS IN WOMEN
Many women who have had chlamydia will not become infertile or have an ectopic pregnancy.
If you have had chlamydia you will not normally be offered any routine tests to see if you are fertile unless you or your partner are having difficulty in getting pregnant. If you are concerned, talk to your doctor or practice nurse.
COMPLICATIONS IN MEN
Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra (urine tube) that runs along the underside of the penis. Symptoms include:
-A white cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
-Pain or a burning sensation when you urinate
-The urge to urinate often
-Irritation and soreness around the tip of the penis
The main symptoms of epididymitis are swelling and tenderness in the epididymis. The epididymis is part of a man’s reproductive system and carries sperm from the testicles. If the testicles are affected it is called epididymo-orchitis.
A chlamydia infection in the epididymis can cause inflammation, swelling and tenderness inside the ball sack. A few men will notice that the whole of the balls are red and tender. Infection can lead to a build-up of fluid in the affected area, or even an abscess. If left untreated, epididymitis can sometimes lead to infertility.
Chlamydia can cause a reactive arthritis (inflammation of the joints). In some people the arthritis develops as part of a syndrome and they also develop inflammation of the urethra (urethritis) and the eyes (conjunctivitis).
Reactive arthritis is more likely to occur in men than women. Symptoms usually get better in 3-12 months although they can return after this. Symptoms can usually be controlled by painkillers, such as ibuprofen. Some people will need to see a joint specialist if their symptoms are severe.
HOW RELIABLE ARE CHLAMYDIA TESTS?
The accuracy of tests varies, depending on the type of test used. Recommended tests are 90-95% sensitive. This means that they will detect chlamydia in most people who have the infection. Some tests you can buy may be less reliable.
More information is available at www.nhs.uk