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Sexually transmitted diseases
Chlamydia is caused by a tiny bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK. It is responsible for human eye as well as genital infections. This sexually transmitted infection continues to be on the increase, with women aged 16-24 and men aged 20-34 most often having the infection at greatest risk.
This sexually transmitted infection is most commonly passed from person to person through unprotected sexual contact (sex without a condom or dental dam). Any form of unsafe sex, including intimate contact if you or the person you're with is infected can place you at risk of getting this infection. This includes penetrative sex of the vagina or anus, oral sex from the mouth to genitals or genitals to mouth. There is also a risk of infection from sexual activity that includes fingering the vagina or playing with the penis head if someone has the infected fluids on their fingers. Occasionally people may transfer the infection on fingers from the genitals to the eyes. Chlamydia can also be passed between mother and baby during birth.

Getting tested Free and confidential testing and treatment is available from your doctor or local sexual health services, even if you are under 16.

Sexual health clinics also known as a Genito-Urinary Medicine or GUM clinics, are usually part of your local general hospital. They're open to anyone who wants help, advice and information on any sexual health matter, including free testing and treatment for STIs.

Chlamydia tests are often taken using a urine sample, this is generally the case with men. Samples may be taken from any infected place such as the cervix for women or the urethra (urine tube) for men. It is not uncommon for services to let women self-swab now where a urine sample is not sufficient.
Up to 70% of women and up to 50% of men infected with Chlamydia have no symptoms. Because of this, a substantial number of infections remain undiagnosed. Where there are symptoms, women may have discharge, pain when passing urine, heavy periods or bleeding between periods, lower abdominal pain or abdominal pain during vaginal sex. Men may notice discharge from the penis and/or burning when passing urine.
Chlamydia is easily treated with a course of antibiotics. However, if left untreated for a long time it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to fertility problems.

You mustn't have sex again until seven days after you've completed the course of treatment to make sure that the infection has cleared up. If you do have sex during this period, it's essential to use a condom. If you're female and using the contraceptive pill then you should tell the doctor treating you. This is because antibiotics given to you during treatment may interfere with contraceptive effects.

It is important to make sure that your partner goes for treatment as well. If you don't feel you can talk to your partner, the clinic will help you with this.

Being treated for Chlamydia doesn't mean you're immune from further infection, so carry on using condoms to protect your future welfare.

The future The risk of further complications that may lead to future problems with fertility are increased the longer the infection is left untreated, and the more times that you get it. This can be a real cause for concern particularly amongst women where the impact upon fertility due to Chlamydia is more evident.

As the correlation between having had this infection and future fertility problems is not absolute services will not provide fertility testing in order to reassure individuals. When trying to conceive it is generally advised to see a doctor to consider fertility testing if you and your partner have been trying for a baby for a year or more.
Useful Tips
  • Don't have unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex - condoms offer the best protection against sexually transmitted infections, including Chlamydia
  • You can use condoms with any other form of contraception for the ultimate in safer sex
  • It is good practice for both partners to get a full sexual health check for infections upon entering a committed relationship especially if you are intending to have unprotected sex (sex without a condom)
  • It is also a good idea to get a full sexual health check if a long term committed relationship has come to an end
  • If you do notice any unusual symptoms it is a good idea to get these checked out as soon as possible
  • You should regard your sexual health as important as your general health, specialists at sexual health services will be happy to give information, help, advice and any support that may be required