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Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It’s most common in young people, who represented 69.8% of all cases in 2006 in Ireland.

multi coloured abstractIt can affect the penis, cervix, fallopian tubes, anus, throat and (in rare cases) the eyes, particularly eye infections and pneumonia in babies born to infected mothers.

Chlamydia can cause serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if it is not treated.

How do you get it?

Chlamydia can be passed on through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person.

This means sex without a condom. A pregnant woman can also pass it on to her baby during childbirth.

How can you prevent chlamydia?

Using condoms will protect you from chlamydia. For information on how to use them correctly, see condoms.

What are the symptoms?

Chlamydia can be difficult to diagnose. 70% of women and 50% of men infected with chlamydia show no symptoms at all, so you can pass it on without even knowing you have it.

For women, symptoms of chlamydia can include:

  • vaginal discharge
  • needing to urinate a lot
  • burning when you urinate
  • itchiness
  • bleeding and/or deep pain during sex
  • bleeding between periods
  • painful periods
  • high temperature
  • stomach pain.

Men with chlamydia might notice:

  • needing to urinate a lot
  • burning when you urinate
  • watery discharge from your penis
  • burning and itching around the hole of your penis
  • pain in your testicles
  • swelling of your testicles.

What if you don’t have any symptoms?

That’s why chlamydia is a tricky infection. You could be one of the 70% of women or 50% of men who have the infection and show no signs of it.

It’s a good idea to get tested if:

  • you’ve been diagnosed with having another STI, like gonorrhoea, herpes or genital warts
  • your partner has been diagnosed with chlamydia or another STI
  • you (or your partner) have had more than one sexual partner, or you’ve recently changed partners
  • you’ve had unprotected sex (without a condom) with a casual partner.

Will it go away if you ignore it?

No, this infection won’t get better on its own. When chlamydia isn’t treated, women can end up with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and also run the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy (where an egg grows outside the uterus instead of inside).

Both men and women can become infertile if they have the infection for a long time without being treated.

Having chlamydia can also increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV.

What happens during a chlamydia test?

A doctor will check for infection by doing a urine test or taking a swab.

For women, this means they take some tissue from the inside of the vagina with a long cotton bud, and send it away to a lab to be examined under a microscope.

For men, the doctor will take a urine sample.  It’s a good idea for both men and women not to urinate for two hours prior to the test in case you need to give a urine sample.

To find out where you can go for a sexual health check, check Think Contraception for a list of clinics around the country.

Is chlamydia curable?

Yes. Chlamydia can be easily treated with a course of antibiotic pills. After you’ve had the antibiotics you’ll need to do a follow-up test to check the infection is really gone.

A high number of people infected with chlamydia also have gonorrhoea, so you should get tested for that as well.

If you go to a clinic will they tell your parents?

According to the law you can ask for, and agree to, medical care for yourself once you’re 16-years-old.

Information the health staff receive from or discuss with you at a sexual health clinic is completely private and confidential and can’t be shared with your parents or people you know.

The only exceptions to this, and this applies to any medical service, is when staff are required to break confidentiality by law. An example of this would be if health staff thought you were at risk of serious harm. In this case the clinic is required to report this to the duty social worker in the Health Service Executive (HSE). Another example might be if your files were required in a court case.

Doctors are required to report the number of cases of chlamydia they diagnose to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre so the disease can be monitored.

Your identifying details will not be used. They don’t need to know who you are, but want to keep track of how many people are getting the infection.

More information

For more information on STIs and having a sexual health check-up, see Think Contraception.

This article was last reviewed on 03 May 2017

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