Chlamydia is a very common STI. Often it has no symptoms so we can have it and not know. Tests and treatment are free, confidential and easy.
Here’s the more general guide to STIs
Chlamydia (pronounce kla-mid-ear. Maybe say it like a pirate?) is a very very common STI. It’s very common amongst young people that have sex, some people say they reckon about 10% of 16-24s that have sex have chlamydia.
How do we get chlamydia?
We can only get it from having sex with someone who already has it. It’s very infectious and is easy to catch from having sex without condoms: particularly penis in vagina or penis in anus sex but also from oral sex and sharing sex toys. The bacteria (germs) are present in semen and vaginal juices.
How do we know we have it?
The only reliable way of finding out if we have chlamydia is by going for a check up (more on this below). This is because (as with most STIs) it often does not have any symptoms (symptom = sign something is wrong, eg symptoms of a cold include sneezing, coughing and needing to stay in bed and watch youtube clips all day). This means we can feel totally fine, healthy, well, horny and still have chlamydia.
For when symptoms do happen they might include*:
- unusual vaginal discharge (remember all vaginas have discharge (whiteish liquid which comes from the vagina, more on this here), but if it’s an unusual colour or smell or more of it than usual it could be a sign of chlamydia),
- any discharge from the penis (so any liquid at the tip of the penis which isn’t wee, cum or pre-cum)
- pain when peeing (unusual tingling or burning)
- pain in the lower stomach (for some women) or painfully swollen testicles (for some men)
- bleeding between periods
- painful sex
(*Some of these symptoms can be a sign of other things though)
How do we get tested for chlamydia?
It’s now really easy to get tested for chlamydia. There are loads of clinics that offer chlamydia testing (find your nearest places by clicking here) as well as other check ups. Also many local areas now are able to send out free chlamydia testing kits directly to you (particularly if you are under 24), see if your area does that here.
The tests for chlamydia involve:
- As I explain here, everything will be explained before hand and you won’t be forced into doing anything you don’t want.a urine test if you have a penis. This involves peeing into a pot in the loo (not in front of the nurse/doctor, that would be weird). It’s important to not pee at least an hour before and to collect the first bit of pee as it comes out of the penis.
- a sample from inside the vagina (if you have a vagina) using something that is a bit like a cotton bud (known as a swab – say that in a pirate voice). You’re often able to do this yourself in the loo if you like, it’s dead easy, just place the swab in the vagina and stir it around a bit – the nurse/doctor will explain.
Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics. Usually in one dose of pills but maybe for up to a week. It’s important that during treatment, and for 7 days after, we avoid entry sex (eg penis in vagina) and that whoever we have had sex with also gets treatment. It’s really easy to catch it again from someone even after treatment. All tests and treatment are free in the UK.
Remember all clinics are confidential**, so it’s your choice whether you tell your parents or not.
(** so long as you or someone else are not at a serious and immediate risk of harm)
Um, will chlamydia go away by itself?
It can, but it’s unlikely. The main problem with chlamydia (and why we need to stop people getting it) is that it can lead to longer term health problems – mainly Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which can cause fertility problems and problematic dangerous pregnancies. So it’s best to get treatment if you can.
How to avoid it?
We can reduce the risk of getting chlamydia by:
- Always use condoms for vaginal, anal or oral sex.
- Avoid sharing sex toys.
- Having non-entry sex
- Only having entry sex with someone that has had the ‘all clear’ for chlamydia
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.