Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in England. It is a bacterial infection which can be passed on through sexual contact with someone who has it. Around 70% of people with vaginas and 50% of people with penises don’t have symptoms.
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Who is Affected by Chlamydia?
Anyone who is sexually active can get chlamydia, but some groups of people are at higher risk because chlamydia is more common in these groups. People who are more likely to get chlamydia include gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men, and young people.
How is it Transmitted?
Chlamydia is passed on through sex with a person who has chlamydia. The bacteria is found in bodily fluids such as semen (cum) or vaginal fluid. This means you can get chlamydia through unprotected anal, vaginal, or oral sex, or infected fluid getting in your eye.
It can also be passed on by sharing sex toys if they are not washed or covered by a new condom between partners and between holes. It can also be spread to other parts of your body, for example if you put a sex toy or penis in your vagina and then in your mouth or anus.
Using condoms with sex toys and penises can protect you from chlamydia. Dental dams can also help protect you if you are licking in and around the vagina and/or anus. You should use a new dental dam every time you have sex, as well as using a new dam between partners and holes.
What are the Symptoms?
Around 70% of people with vaginas and 50% of people with penises don’t have symptoms. When there are symptoms, these can include:
- Vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods
- Lower abdominal pain, especially during sex
- Pain and swelling of the testicles (balls)
- Unusual vaginal or urethral discharge
- Pain or a burning sensation when peeing
Chlamydia infections in the rectum (bum) usually don’t have any symptoms, but can cause pain. Chlamydia infections in the throat usually don’t have any symptoms.
If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to more serious symptoms, such as:
- Fertility or pregnancy problems
- Liver problems
- A type of joint disease called reactive arthritis
Testing and Treatment
You can get tested for chlamydia at a sexual health (GUM) clinic. Testing and treatment is easy, and painless. If you identify as a gay, bi or any other man who has sex with men, then you can get tested at LGBT Foundation through our full sexual health screening clinic in partnership with The Northern. For more information on when and where to get tested, visit lgbt.foundation/testing.
It is important that you tell the doctor or nurse what type of sex you’re having so they can test you in the most appropriate way.
Anal and vaginal chlamydia tests are swabs which you can do yourself in private. If you have a penis, part of your test will be a urine (wee) sample. If you need a mouth swab to check for chlamydia in your throat, the doctor or nurse will do this. If you are having a smear test, a cervical swab can be taken at the same time to check for chlamydia.
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, usually either a strong dose in one go, or one week’s course of tablets. If you have been told that somebody you have had unprotected sex with has tested positive for chlamydia, the clinic will start your treatment on the same day as the test, because it is likely you have chlamydia.
If you were treated with a course of antibiotics, you should avoid sex until your course has finished. If you were treated with one large dose of antibiotics, you should avoid sex for 7 days afterwards.
LGV (lymphogranuloma venereum) is an STI caused by a specific type of the chlamydia bacteria. Gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men are more at risk of getting LGV. Most of the time, LGV infections are anal infections.
- Inflammation of the rectum (proctitis) with bleeding or pus
- Ulcers in the rectum
Because LGV is a type of chlamydia, samples are only tested after testing positive for chlamydia. LGV is treated with antibiotics. You should avoid sex until your treatment is finished.
If you identify as a gay, bi or any other man who has sex with men, then you can get tested at LGBT Foundation through our full sexual health screening clinic in partnership with The Northern. For more information on when and where to get tested, visit lgbt.foundation/testing