Approximately 3-7 in every 100 sexually active people in the UK are infected with Chlamydia and is the most frequent in the under 25 age group. Public Health England figures confirmthere were over 200,000 infections in 2017.
Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium infects the sexual reproductive organs of both men and women. It is classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and can be passed easily from one person to the next.
STD routes of infection include:
Symptoms of Chlamydia may not beimmediately apparent and as such the infection can be passed unknowingly between partners. Your sexual partner is more than likely to be infected too if not treated at the same time and he/she will re-infect you again after you have recovered. That is why it is so important to be regularly screened.
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The national guidelines recommend a test for Chlamydia if you are under 25 and sexually active regularly. Screening should be performed optimally every year and more often if and when you change sexual partners.
Seven out of every ten infected women have no symptoms and many may not even know until weeks or months later.
Five out of every ten men infected have no symptoms.
If symptoms do occur they may include:
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a) A urine test. Your urine should be a mid stream sample and have been retained in your bladder for more than 3 hours.
b) A vaginal swab to obtain mucus and cells. (A similar procedure to the cervical smear test but the laboratory tests for Chlamydia).
The usual test for men is also a mid stream urine sample or for a swab to be taken from the urethra of the penis.
If you had anal or oral sex then you will need a rectal or throat swab. If Chlamydia is confirmed, we recommend further testing for other STIs.
Please note: the cervical smear test does not test for Chlamydia.
It is important that treatment is started immediately: even before your test results are available where Chlamydia is strongly suspected. Prompt treatment reduces the risk of future complications.
A short course of antibiotics is usually given.
a) Doxycycline one tablet twice a day for seven days; or
b) Azithromycin one tablet only - single dose.
You should inform the doctor if you are or suspect you are pregnant or are breast-feeding. This may affect the choice of antibiotic.
Please not have sex until you both have finished treatment (or for seven days after treatment with a single-dose antibiotic).
If you have known allergies to either antibiotic tell the doctor and he/she will prescribe an alternative for you.
If left untreated, it can lead to serious problems. 10-40% of women develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) with accompanying high fever and pain. It can also develop slowly over months or years without any symptoms. However, scarring or damage to the Fallopian tubes may occur and can cause infertility and persistent (chronic) pelvic pain and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. (Where fertilisation occurs in the fallopian tubes and can be life-threatening.)
Complications during pregnancy can also occur i.e. miscarriage, premature and still-birth which increases in pregnant women with untreated Chlamydia and after delivery your baby may develop a Chlamydia eye or lung infection or both.
Chlamydia can be responsible for reduce fertility in men.
Reactive arthritis is a rare complication for both men and women resulting in painful swollen joints. Your immune system sometimes become overactive and battles with your own body producing antibodies which attack your joints making them red, swollen and painful. There isn't actually any infection in the joint itself but your body thinks there is.
Urethritis (infection of the urethra) non-gonococcus urethritis or NGU commonly triggers reactive arthritis in approximately 1% of people. Chlamydia is to blame for the condition. Symptoms of the infection include a discharge from the urethra and pain when passing urine.
Not usually if the treatment worked and you have taken the full course of antibiotics. It is however important to have an additional test for Chlamydia in the following circumstances:
The National Screening Programme advises that those under the age of 25 having had a positive test for Chlamydia should have a repeat test three months later. (This is to confirm that the infection has completely cleared and hasn’t returned.)