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Chlamydia

Quick facts:

  • Chlamydia is the most reported STI among young people in Australia. It’s estimated that less than a third of those with an infection get diagnosed.
  • Chlamydia is a curable bacterial infection usually showing no symptoms and is easily treated with antibiotics.
  • Chlamydia is easy to test for in a urine sample, or swab from the cervix, vagina, throat, or anus.
  • Using a condom or other barrier method when having sex, getting regular sexual health checks, and talking about it with your partners is the best way to prevent chlamydia.
  • There were over 22,000 notifications of chlamydia in Queensland in 2021.

Chlamydia trachomatis is a very common bacterial STI which can be passed on during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It most commonly affects the urethra, cervix, anus, and more rarely the throat. It may spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, or testicles. Chlamydia can also be transferred from the genitals to the eyes.

Signs and symptoms

Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually develop about 2 to 14 days after transmission. Experiencing the symptoms listed below doesn’t necessarily mean you have chlamydia, but they can be associated with the condition. If you have any symptoms, get a check-up with a health professional as soon as possible.

Vagina

You may notice:

  • a change in vaginal discharge
  • pain when passing urine
  • bleeding or spotting between periods or after having sex
  • pain during or after sex
  • crampy pain in the lower abdomen.

Penis/testicles

You may notice:

  • a discharge from the penis
  • discomfort or irritation at the tip of the penis
  • pain when passing urine
  • swollen and sore testes.

Anus

  • You may experience pain, blood staining, or discharge from the anus.

Testing

Testing for chlamydia is a simple process. A urine sample and/or swabs from the vagina, cervix, anus, or throat is taken and sent to the laboratory for testing. Swabs can often be self-collected while you are at the clinic or pathology collection centre.

Queensland residents aged 16 years or older can order a free chlamydia and gonorrhoea urine test online through 13 HEALTH Webtest. This service offers users 2 options to give a urine sample, plus provides support and reminders to get treatment if your test is positive.

How often you test depends on your lifestyle and how sexually active you are. For sexually active people under 30, it is recommended to get checked at least once each year, but there are situations where getting tested more regularly is advised.

If you test positive for chlamydia, anyone you have had sex with in the past 6 months should be tested and may need treatment. Sample conversations and services that assist with telling partners in a confidential and anonymous way (if desired) are available online:

Advising sexual partners that they have been exposed to an STI is important for their health and the health of any other people they may have sex with.

Treatment

Chlamydia can be effectively treated with a single dose or course of antibiotics.

To ensure that chlamydia has been treated properly:

  • take the tablets as advised by your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist
  • avoid sexual contact, not even sex with a condom, for the 7 days after you and your partners have taken the tablets.

Anyone who has had chlamydia should have another test 3 months after treatment to make sure that they have not been reinfected. It is common for people to get chlamydia again from a sexual partner who has not been treated.

Transmission

You can get an STI such as chlamydia by having sex without a condom.

If you’re having sex without a condom, the risk of getting an STI is higher:

  • if you have casual partners
  • the more casual partners you have
  • if you have partners who have had sex in some countries outside Australia (especially if they haven’t used a condom in the past)
  • if you have partners who have injected drugs
  • for men who have anal sex with other men.

Prevention

Practise safe sex, talk to your partners about sexual health, and make sure you get enthusiastic consent. Condoms are the best way to prevent STIs and using them with a water-based lubricant will be more pleasurable and reduce the risk of the condom breaking.

The only way to know that you do not have an infection is to get a sexual health check. If you have sex with new or different partners and do not use condoms, you’ll need to have more frequent sexual health checks.

Health outcome

Without treatment, chlamydia can spread from the vagina to the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and other parts of the lower abdomen. This type of infection is called pelvic inflammatory disease and can lead to infertility.

Babies born to mothers with untreated chlamydia may develop eye or lung infections. During pregnancy it is very important to have regular antenatal checks, which include testing for STIs.

If left untreated, chlamydia can also continue from the urethra further into the reproductive system, which can contribute to reduced sperm counts and infertility.

Help and assistance

Get qualified health advice 24/7 for the cost of a local call. 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

This factsheet provides general information and is not intended to replace the need to see a health professional or have a sexual health check. For more information on chlamydia or sexual health please talk to a healthcare provider. A doctor, nurse or health worker can assist with:

  • providing appropriate tests, treatment and information about how to prevent STIs
  • helping people to ensure that their sexual partners get tested and treated.

Other resources

  • Learn more about safe sex.
  • For short animations about common STIs, see Queensland Health’s YouTube channel Your Sexual Health.
  • For comprehensive information about safe sex, STIs, testing and treatment for young adults, see Stop the Rise of STIs.
  • For videos and resources developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, see Young Deadly Free.
  • For information on chlamydia in Arabic, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Thai, or Vietnamese, visit the StaySTIFree website. Other translated resources about STIs are available from the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland.

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