Page modified at: 21/02/2010
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It's a bacterial infection, which is found in semen and vaginal fluids.
Up to one in ten sexually active young people has Chlamydia infection.
Chlamydia in Wales
Genital chlamydial infection is currently the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosed in GUM clinics in the United Kingdom.
In Wales in 2006, the highest rates of chlamydia are among 16-19 year old females (968/100,000 population) and 20-24 year old males (827/100,000). In the UK as a whole during 2006, the highest rates are in 16-19 year old females (1326/100,000) and 20-24 year old females (1122/100,000).
Young people are an important risk group for acquiring an STI. Research shows that young people are more likely to have higher numbers of sexual partners, use barrier contraception inconsistently and are more likely to become reinfected after being diagnosed with and treated for an initial STI.
In Wales, just over 3% of uncomplicated chlamydia diagnoses in men during 2006 were homosexually acquired.
Click on the graph below to link to the National Public Health Service for Wales website for further information
How is Chlamydia spread?
Chlamydia is usually passed from one person to another during vaginal, oral or anal sex, or by sharing sex toys. It can live inside cells of the cervix, urethra, rectum and sometimes in the throat and eyes. Chlamydia can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.
You can't get chlamydia... from kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats, cups, plates or cutlery
How do I reduce the risk of catching Chlamydia?
- Male and female condoms, when used correctly, can help protect against STIs
- Before you have sex, talk to your partner about using condoms
- Use condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex
- If you have oral sex, use a dam
How do I reduce the risk of passing Chlamydia on to others?
Testing and treating (if appropriate) all sexual contacts helps to prevent the infection being passed on to others. The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of chlamydia because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.
Transmission of an STD, including syphilis cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and/or douching after sex. Any unusual discharge, sore, or rash, particularly in the groin area, should be a signal to refrain from having sex and to see a doctor immediately.
What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?
It's often referred to as the 'silent infection', as most men and women don't have any obvious signs or symptoms, or they're so mild they're not noticed.
Symptoms can appear one to three weeks after you've come into contact with chlamydia, or many months later, or not until the infection spreads to other parts of your body.
Women might notice:
* Nothing – many are silent
* Unusual vaginal discharge
* Bleeding between periods or during or after sex
* Pain with sex or when passing urine
* Lower abdominal pain
Men might notice:
* Nothing – many are silent
* White/cloudy, watery discharge from the tip of the penis
* Pain when passing urine or painful testicles
If the infection is in the eye or rectum, you may experience discomfort, pain or discharge. Chlamydia in the throat is uncommon and usually has no symptoms
What happens if Chlamydia isn't treated?
Without treatment, the infection can spread to other parts of the body causing damage and long-term health problems, including infertility. Infants infected with Chlamydia can have severe eye infections and can develop life threatening pneumonia.
In women, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This can lead to:
* Ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tube)
* Blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes that carry the egg from ovary to womb) - causing infetrtility
* Long-term pelvic pain
In men, chlamydia can lead to painful infection in the testicles and possibly reduced fertility.
In men and women Chlamydia can cause inflammation of the joints. This is known as reactive arthritis. When this also involves the urethra and the eyes, it is known as Reiter's syndrome.
How do I get testing or treatment for Chlamydia?
If you think you might have chlamydia, it's important to be tested quickly.
NHS:Testing is free on the NHS from genitourinary medicine clinics, sexual health clinics, many contraception clinics, your GP and pharmacies. The National Chlamydia Screening Programme in England is being extended to ensure all sexually active women and men under 25 can access chlamydia testing - this includes testing in other settings such as youth clubs and colleges. You can find an clinic to help with Chlamydia by phoning directory enquiries and asking for genitourinary medicine, sexually transmitted disease or venereal disease or locate one using our NHS Genitourinary Medicine Clinic page in the Sexual Health Section of our website. Women having intrauterine contraception (IUD or IUS) fitted, or having an abortion, will usually be offered a chlamydia test.
PRIVATE:Alternatively you can have confidential private testing based on an internet ordered urine home sample kit. Although you can also buy home chlamydia testing kits, the accuracy of these tests varies. Telephone 0345 2303386 or use the Confidential Text Service 07786202070
How is Chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia is easy to treat with antibiotics, either as a single dose or longer course for up to a week.
Recommended Regimens: Azithromycin 1 g orally in a single dose OR Doxycycline 100 mg orally twice a day for 7 days
YOU WILL ALSO NEED TREATMENT FOR GONORRHOEA IF GONORRHOEA INFECTION IS NOT RULED OUT
Tell your doctor or nurse if you're pregnant, or think you might be, or you're breastfeeding - this might affect the type of antibiotic you're given. The antibiotics used to treat chlamydia interact with the combined oral contraceptive pill and the contraceptive patch, making them less effective, so check this with the doctor or nurse. To avoid reinfection, any sexual partners should be treated too. If complications occur, another treatment might be needed.