Testing for Chlamydia

Chlamydia is probably the most prevalent STI in the UK, and is in fact a cause for concern in the National Health Service because of its ease of transmission. This article discusses Chlamydia and its testing.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a STD, which means that the illness is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. The infection is caused by bacteria, tiny microorganisms responsible for many human diseases.

Chlamydia is quite often referred to as a silent disease because no noticeable signs or symptoms present in many cases. Many people think that because of this the infection is nothing to worry about, but unfortunately when left untreated Chlamydia can cause some very serious complications. The ‘silent’ disease can also spread more easily because an infected person isn’t aware of the infection and therefore takes no measures to prevent its spreading.

About 75% of women and 50% of men affected by Chlamydia won’t present with any symptoms, but those that do present with signs of the disease will notice the symptoms within 3 weeks.

Chlamydia affects a tube called the urethra which is part of both the male and female reproductive tract. It also affects the cervix in women, which is basically the opening of the womb and an important part of the female birth canal. When left untreated, this infection can spread into other extremely important parts of the female reproductive system, including the uterus (womb) and surrounding structures, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

The symptoms in women are a burning sensation during urination and an unexpected vaginal discharge. Other symptoms are fairly non-specific and hard to link to an STI like back pain, nausea, and fever. Ultimately untreated Chlamydia can cause infertility in women.

In men the most common signs and symptoms are a discharge from the penis or a pain during urination. Itchiness or an unusual burning sensation around the end of the penis can also occur, and even more uncommon is the painful inflammation of the testes.

Chlamydia has particularly serious ramifications for pregnant women. Because the infection affects the birth canal and surrounding area, it can be passed on to babies affecting their eyes and lungs. This STI can also cause premature births which carry with them their own wealth of risks and other issues.

Testing for Chlamydia

Fortunately testing for Chlamydia is a straightforward business that involves either a swab of the urethra or a urine test. As mentioned above, the infection affects the urethra, and so taking a direct sample from this structure or examining urine (which passes through the urethra) indicates whether the bacteria is present.

You can receive testing for Chlamydia for free from the NHS, or if you would rather have the added confidentiality of sending a sample off to a private company for inspection, then you can arrange to do so and can expect to pay around £30 for a Chlamydia only test.

Dealing with a positive Chlamydia test

If your test comes back negative then that’s great news, and you won’t have particularly inconvenienced yourself by finding out for sure. If it comes back positive then don’t worry, the treatment for Chlamydia is extremely effective. Your doctor will prescribe you either a one off or a week long dose of antibiotics, and the illness is usually very effectively eradicated by this treatment. You should avoid sex for at least a week after your treatment to make sure that all traces of the infectious bacteria are gone.

If you want to be retested for Chlamydia after treatment to make sure that there are no persisting signs of infection then you should wait at least 3 weeks for an accurate test. In most cases however, a retest is not necessary, even if your symptoms aren’t completely gone a couple of weeks after treatment. When in doubt however, it is always best to consult your doctor.

If your Chlamydia test has come back positive you will need to inform any previous and/or present sexual partners of the infection so that they can receive the appropriate treatment. This can be quite difficult and embarrassing, however because of the potentially life changing effects of Chlamydia it is important to make sure that anyone who needs it gets the appropriate treatment.

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