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July 20, 2023

STI Spotlight: Chlamydia – what you need to know about chlamydia

As part of our series spotlighting STI’s, this month we’re looking at chlamydia.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are an infection that can be passed on between sexual partners during unprotected sexual contact. There are more than 25 STIs which can be spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex.

They are unfortunately common amongst all age groups, which is why it’s important to understand what they are, the symptoms you may experience and how they are treated.

It’s important to start breaking the stigma surrounding STIs by showing that they aren’t something to be embarrassed about and, in most cases, can be very simple and quick to get treated.

So, let’s have a look at what chlamydia is and what you need to know about it.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most commonly passed-on STI in the UK! It is a bacterial infection which is most common in people under the age of 25, but can and does affect people of every age.

Chlamydia can be passed on through:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Sharing sex toys without washing them between uses
  • Genitals coming into contact with your partners genitals (even if there isn’t penetration or ejaculation)

It’s possible for chlamydia to infect the rectum or throat if you have unprotected anal or oral sex. Also, infected semen or vaginal fluids can cause conjunctivitis if they come into contact with your eyes.

Did you know? You can’t pass on chlamydia through kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.

What are the potential symptoms?

Chlamydia – often referred to as a silent STI – regularly doesn’t show any signs or symptoms of infection, with 62% of people not knowing they have it.

However, for others, symptoms can often take a few weeks to appear and include:

  • Pain when peeing
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum
  • Pelvic and lower abdominal pain
  • Heavy or bleeding between periods
  • Abdominal pain during vaginal sex
  • Painful swelling of testicles.

If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and potentially cause infertility in those born female.

But don’t worry, testing for chlamydia is quick and easy and can be done at home with one of our self-testing kits.

What tests can you take?

If you’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner, it’s recommended you take a chlamydia test.  Testing for chlamydia is simple, painless and doesn’t typically require a physical examination.

The test can be either a urine or swab test.

Swab test

  • The swab will collect a sample from inside the vagina or from the tip of the penis
  • Most of the time you can take the vaginal swab yourself
  • A medical professional may take the swab from the tip of the penis or if you’re had oral or anal sex, one from your throat or rectum

If you suspect you may have chlamydia or just want to make sure, you can order a self-test kit to do at home!

It’s quick, simple and discreet giving you results in just a few days – for more information on out self-test kits and where to order on, visit: https://essexsexualhealthservice.org.uk/self-test/

If you can’t or don’t wish to use our free online portal to order a test kit, you can visit a sexual health clinic or alternatively your GP.

A clinician will take a swab of your infected area and, if you test positive, will advise you about suitable treatment.

To find your nearest sexual health clinic, visit: https://essexsexualhealthservice.org.uk/clinic-map/

What is the treatment?

If you test positive for chlamydia, you will be recommended a course of treatment for your infection.  The majority of cases of chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics.

As with most medication, you may experience some side effects but they are usually mild and could include, stomach ache, diarrhoea, feeling sick and thrush.

Most antibiotics are safe to use alongside hormonal contraception (the pill, injection, implant etc). However, it’s important to talk to a medical professional to make sure you get the correct antibiotics for your needs.

Whether you are pregnant or not will also affect the type of antibiotics you’re prescribed, so it’s beneficial to let your doctor know beforehand.

The infection and symptoms will typically clear up in few days with successful treatment and not return.

What can you do to prevent chlamydia?

As with any STI, condoms are the most effective method for reducing the risks of contracting or passing on chlamydia.

Condoms are currently the only method of contraception which will prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as pregnancy. They work by catching the sperm and avoiding direct genital contact. External condoms are 98% effective whilst internal condoms (femidoms) are 95% effective.

If you would like some free condoms, we can help. Visit https://ec-card.org.uk/ to find out more about our eC-Card scheme and how you can access free condoms near you.

You can help prevent the spread of chlamydia by:

  • Using a condom when you have sex (vaginal, oral or anal)
  • Using a dam – a thick piece of plastic or latex – to cover the vagina during oral sex or when rubbing genitals together
  • Avoiding sharing of sex toys unless they are thoroughly cleaned between use.
  • Regular STI tests and when you have sex with new or casual partners.

However, the best way to help stop the spread of chlamydia, is to inform your most recent sexual partner(s) that you’ve tested positive, so they can get tested too.

What support is available?

Essex Sexual Health Service is delivered by a range of clinics across the county, with the knowledge to help and assist you with any sexual health issue you may encounter.

Our clinics and clinicians are confidential and discreet, with the aim of helping you maintain good sexual health.

We have everything you need to keep you and your sexual partners protected. All you need to do is ask and our friendly team will help however we can.

Don’t worry! Most STIs can be easily treated and as we mentioned, chlamydia is a very common infection and is usually very easily treated.

Visit our Online Portal or Contact us on 0300 003 1212 and we’ll help arrange the tests and treatment you need.

Alternatively, for more ways to get in touch and find your nearest clinic visit: https://essexsexualhealthservice.org.uk/contact/

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