How do you know if you have chlamydia?

Written by: Dr Nneka Nwokolo
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Chlamydia is a type of bacteria that is transmitted from one person to another during sex. It may be spread via vaginal, oral or anal sex. Chlamydia very often doesn’t cause symptoms so many people don’t know that they have it unless they have a test for it. 

When chlamydia does cause symptoms, in men there may be a discharge from the penis and/or discomfort passing urine, and in women it may cause vaginal discharge, bleeding after sex or discomfort passing urine. When chlamydia infects the rectum (back passage), people may experience pain or bleeding. Infection of the throat very often doesn’t cause any symptoms at all.

Chlamydia infection can be prevented by using condoms. Leading physician in sexual health Dr Nneka Nwokolo explains what to do if you're sexually active, had unprotected sex and worried that you may have caught the sometimes undetectable sexually transmitted infection (STI)...

How do you know if you have chlamydia?

The only way to know for sure whether or not you have chlamydia is to have a test for it. Tests are usually done on a vaginal swab in women (in women without symptoms, this can be done by the woman herself without the need for an examination), and on a urine sample in men. Infections can also be picked up from the throat and rectal swabs. It’s important that people who have symptoms are checked over by a doctor or nurse to make sure that no complications have developed, because untreated chlamydia may sometimes cause swelling and inflammation of the testicles in men and pelvic infections in women.

How do you know if your sexual partner has chlamydia?

Because chlamydia often doesn’t cause symptoms, it may not be possible to tell if your partner has it. It’s important that you and your partner(s) test regularly, particularly if you or your partner(s) have other partners.

What happens if you have chlamydia for too long?

If chlamydia is left untreated it can cause long term problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can result in infertility. PID may also cause chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancy, a potentially dangerous condition where a pregnancy happens in the Fallopian tube instead of in the uterus (womb).

Is chlamydia curable?

Yes, chlamydia is easily and completely curable with a course of antibiotics.

By Dr Nneka Nwokolo
Genitourinary Medicine

Dr Nneka Nwokolo is a London based consultant physician in Sexual Health and HIV Medicine who is known for her sensitivity and discretion.

Dr Nwokolo has extensive experience in the management of sexually transmitted infections STIs and HIV in men and women, and a special interest in the management of chronic and recurrent problems such as genital herpes, recurrent thrush and bacterial vaginosis. She has particular expertise in the treatment of syphilis and antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea.

Other areas of expertise include contraception, management of the menopause, the sexual health of women and adolescents and pre and post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV infection.

She was the lead author of the 2015 UK National Guideline for the Management of Genital Chlamydia Infection. She has many publications in the fields of sexual health and HIV.

Dr Nwokolo provides the full range of contraceptive methods including implants and intrauterine contraception and is an instructing doctor for the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, providing training in contraception to doctors and nurses. She is the lead for young people in her NHS practice and provides sympathetic sexual health care and contraception to adolescents over the age of 16.


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