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What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria (germs), called chlamydia trachomatis.  It is one of the most common bacterial STIs.

How does chlamydia spread?

Chlamydia spreads through unprotected oral, vaginal, and/or anal sex with an infected partner.  Mothers may also pass it to their newborn baby during a vaginal birth.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

  • Change in discharge from the penis, vagina, or rectum
  • Itching, pain, or burning sensation when peeing
  • Itching or pain around the tip of the penis
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding during or after sex
  • Pain or swelling of the testes
  • Redness or swelling of the conjunctiva (white part of the eye) if exposed.

Most people do not show any symptoms, but can still spread the germs to others without knowing it.  Testing may then be the only the way to know that you have chlamydia.  Symptoms usually appear in about 2 weeks, but can take up to six weeks after the germs enter your body.

What are complications of chlamydia?

If left untreated, the germs can spread and cause an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  Even without symptoms, it can lead to serious complications, such as:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg attaches outside of the uterus)
  • Infertility (unable to get pregnant)
  • During pregnancy, early labour, and infection of the eyes and lungs of the newborn.

Infections, including chlamydia, of the genital area may increase the risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

How do I get tested for chlamydia?

A urine sample and/or swabs of the cervix, urethra, throat, or rectum may be collected by a health care provider to test for chlamydia.

How is chlamydia treated?

  • If you have these symptoms, see a health care provider as soon as possible. 
  • Tell your health care provider about any type of unprotected sex (oral, vaginal, or rectal). 
  • Treatment includes antibiotics (medications that kill bacteria) and it is important to take the medication as prescribed by your health care provider. 
  • Do not have sex for 7 days after start of the treatment. 
  • Your partners will need to receive treatment and wait seven days before having sex again. 
  • The Health Unit can help you notify your partners, while keeping your identity confidential.
  • You can also be re-infected with chlamydia after treatment, so it is recommended that you repeat testing 6 months after treatment. 

How do I prevent the spread of chlamydia?

Ways to prevent infection include:

  • Practicing safer sex, such as:
    • abstinence (not taking part in any types of sex),
    • Mutual monogamy (both partners agree to only have sex with each other and have been tested for sexually transmitted and bloodborne infections (STBBIs)), and
    • Use latex and polyurethane male and female condoms and dental dams.  Condoms are available for free at the Health Unit.
    • Not sharing sex toys or thoroughly washing them with disinfectants between use
  • Getting tested for STBBIs, if you had unprotected sex and/or are not sure if you or your partners have a STBBI.
Photo of a condom and wrapper

For more information contact the Health Unit or speak to your health care provider.

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