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What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis.

How can you get chlamydia?

You can get chlamydia:

    • through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected person
    • through infected fluid that comes in contact with your eyes, either directly or spread by hand
    • Chlamydia can also be passed from mother to baby during childbirth 

        How can you tell if you have chlamydia?

        Many people who have chlamydia do not have any signs of infection. You can pass chlamydia to someone else without even knowing it. Men might notice one or more of the following:         

        • discharge from the penis                             

        • burning feeling when you pee

        • pain in the testicles              

        • burning and/or itching at end of the penis


        Women might notice one or more of the following:

        • an unusual discharge from the vagina

        • a burning feeling when you pee

        • pain in the lower abdomen

        • abnormal vaginal bleeding e.g. between periods, during or after having sex

        • pain during sex


        In both men and women:

        • With an oral infection – you may have no symptoms.

        • With an anal infection- you may have symptoms such as pain, bleeding and discharge.

        Rarely chlamydia may affect the eye and cause redness and dischargeHow do you get tested for chlamydia?

        Both men and women can have a test for chlamydia simply by giving a urine sample or by having a swab taken from the affected area. 

        For the urine test, it is important not to pee for two hours before the test is taken.

        Testing for gonorrhea can be done at the same time.

        How is chlamydia treated?



        When you test positive for chlamydia you and your partner(s) must be treated.  A health care provider will prescribe an antibiotic that will easily treat and cure chlamydia.

        It is important to:

        • treat chlamydia to avoid serious infection, re-infection, complications and spread to others
        • take and finish all the medication
        • abstain from unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex until treatment of partners is complete ( i.e. after completion of a multiple-dose treatment or for seven days after single-dose therapy)

        Do you need follow-up?


        You may need follow-up if:

        • you vomited the medication
        • there is a chance you were re-infected 
        • you are pregnant. 
        • your symptoms did not go away

        If you tested positive:

        A public health  nurse will call you to talk about:

        • treatment and prevention
        • partner notification
        • the need to have repeat testing in six months 


        How do you protect yourself and others?


        Talk with your partner and make informed decisions BEFORE having sex and plan to:

        • abstain or limit your number of sex partners
        • ask your partners to be tested before you have sex
        • always use condoms or barriers for vaginal, oral and anal sex
        • get an STI check-up—especially if either of you have had more than one sex partner or think you have an infection
        • consider the effect that alcohol and drug use can have on sexual decision-making
        • Consider getting immunized for STIs such as hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV).


        Are there any special concerns about chlamydia?


        • Because there are often no symptoms, you may not seek medical attention.  If the infection is not treated you may develop serious health problems.
        • Chlamydia can increase the risk of getting  HIV
        • For women:
          • The infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), causing pain and increasing the risk of scarring in the fallopian tubes which can lead to tubal (ectopic) pregnancy and/or infertility
        • If you are pregnant with untreated chlamydia your baby could get severe eye or lung infections

        For Men:  The infection can:

        • cause pain and swelling in the testicles
        • occasionally cause sterility
        • For both men and women:
          • Untreated chlamydia can spread to your joints and cause arthritis (called Reiter’s syndrome).



        Canadian Guidelines for Sexually Transmitted Infections



               Updated March 2014

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    Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 28 January 2015.