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What it is

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Chlamydia tracheomati.
It is common in young women and if left untreated can damage their chance of getting pregnant.

How is it spread

Chlamydia can be spread through a variety of sexual contacts such as:

  • unprotected anal sex
  • unprotected oral sex
  • genitals contact
  • unprotected vaginal sex
  • sharing sex toys which have not been washed or covered with a new condom between each person who uses them

Chlamydia cannot be passed on through casual contact, including kissing and hugging, or from sharing baths, towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or cutlery.

Signs and symptoms

Most people who have chlamydia do not notice any symptoms.
If you do get symptoms, these usually appear 1-3 weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person. In some cases, the symptoms occur many months later, or not until the infection has spread.

Symptoms in women

The most common symptoms include:

  • pain when passing urine
  • heavier periods than usual
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • pain and/or bleeding during or after sex
  • bleeding between periods

Symptoms in men

The most common symptoms include:

  • pain when passing urine
  • a white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis
  • pain in the testicles
    Engaging in unprotected anal or oral sex can result in an infection in the rectum, eyes or throat. If infected semen or vaginal fluid comes into contact with the eyes you conjunctivitis can also develop.

Complications of Chlamydia


If chlamydia is left untreated in women, it can spread to the womb and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can lead to infertility, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Women may also develop an inflammation of the cervix (‘cervicitis’), or an infection in the Bartholin’s glands near the vaginal opening. Very rarely women can develop a reactive arthritis.


If chlamydia is left untreated in men, it can cause:

Urethritis – inflammation of the urethra resulting in symptoms that include a white cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis, pain or a burning sensation when passing urine, the urge to urinate often, irritation and soreness around the tip of the penis
Epididymitis – inflammation swelling and tenderness inside the scrotum (ball sack), which may become red and tender If the testicles are affected it is called epididymo-orchitis. 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.
Reactive arthritis – inflammation of the joints.

Preventing chlamydia

You can help to prevent the spread of chlamydia by:

  • using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • using a condom to cover the penis during oral sex
  • using a dam (a piece of thin, soft plastic or latex) to cover the female genitals during oral sex or when rubbing female genitals together
  • not sharing sex toys (If you do share sex toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom between each person who uses them).

If you test positive for chlamydia, it is important that your current sexual partner and any other recent sexual partners are also tested and treated.


Chlamydia is usually treated with antibiotics in short courses lasting 1-7days.
Your doctor may give you different antibiotics if you have an allergy, or are pregnant. A longer course of antibiotics may be needed if there are complications of chlamydia

For further information, contact the Infection Prevention and Control Department at St Bernard’s Hospital.
Telephone: 20072266 Ext 2315