WHAT IS IT?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the world and is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can cause infection or irritation of the genitals, especially, the cervix or urethra. Occasionally Chlamydia can also affect the rectum, eyes, or throat.
Anyone of any age can get Chlamydia. While Chlamydia is becoming even more common, it is most common in people less than 25 years old, and especially common in people less than 20 years of age.
HOW WOULD I GET IT?
- Chlamydia is contagious and spread from person to person through intimate sexual contact including unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner.
- It is extremely contagious and any sexually active person can get it.
- Penetration and/or ejaculation are not required to spread chlamydia.
- An infected person can pass Chlamydia to their baby during vaginal childbirth, which may lead to lung and/or eye infections in the infant.
- Reinfection frequently occurs if a person has sex before their treatment is completed, or if their infected partners are not treated.
- People who have had Chlamydia are NOT immune after their first infection. They can be reinfected again anytime they have unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner.
- It is not possible to become infected with Chlamydia by touching an object like a toilet seat.
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD IT?
Chlamydia infections can cause mild to severe symptoms. However, most people have no symptoms at all. This means that it is easy to spread the infection without ever knowing they are infected. When symptoms do occur, they might only appear 2-6 weeks after initial exposure to the bacteria.
Up to 90 percent of persons with vaginas with Chlamydia show no symptoms at all. Of those who do, the most common symptoms include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Pain during sex
- Burning or pain with urination
Up to 70 percent of persons with penises/testicles with Chlamydia show no symptoms at all. Of those who do, the most common symptoms include:
- Burning or pain with urination
- Clear, watery or milky discharge from the penis
- Pain or tenderness of the testicles
- Swelling in the scrotum
Also, Chlamydia may cause:
- Pain, itching, bleeding, and/or mucus discharge of the rectum (Chlamydia in the anus)
- Redness, itching, and/or discharges of the eyes (Chlamydia in the eyes)
- Sore throat, cough, swollen lymph nodes, and/or fever (Chlamydia in the throat)
HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF AND MY PARTNER?
You can prevent your likelihood of becoming infected with or transmitting Chlamydia by using barrier methods such as condoms or dental dams for penetrative sex, oral sex, and sex with shared sex toys.
Do not have sex if you or your sexual partner has abnormal discharge, burning with urination, or a genital rash or sore. People can also reduce their risk of transmitting Chlamydia by getting regular STI screenings.
HOW DO I GET TESTED?
Testing for Chlamydia is done in a doctor or nurse’s office/clinic with a sample of urine or with a swab of the cervix, urethra, vagina, rectum, nose, throat, and eyes (depending on where the infection is thought to be).
At HSHC, we routinely swab for gonorrhea when we do a Pap test, but this is not necessarily done at other clinics. Outside of our clinic, always ask for STI swabs to be done if you want them taken during a Pap test.
A blood test is used for infants less than 3 months of age.
WHEN SHOULD I GET TESTED?
Anyone experiencing symptoms of Chlamydia (see below) or another STI, or who have had unprotected sexual contact with someone infected with Chlamydia, should get tested.
Additionally, once-yearly screening tests for Chlamydia are recommended for all sexually active persons with vaginas who are younger than 25 years old, even in the absence of symptoms. This is because Chlamydia is common in this age group and infection frequently does not cause symptoms in people with vaginas.
Treating Chlamydia is important to prevent transmission, and prevent the major damage that this infection can cause to reproductive organs, such as uterus.
If you or your sexual partner are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, you should consider getting tested for other infections, including HIV, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
HOW IT IS TREATED?
Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics taken as a single dose or several doses over the course of one week if the infection is uncomplicated. More complicated or serious infections may require hospitalization and/or longer doses of antibiotics.Treatment is important for you and anyone you have had sex with recently (the last 60 days, or the last person you had sex with), whether or not they have symptoms or have a negative test for Chlamydia. You should NOT have sex until at least one week passes after both you and your partner have completed the entire course of antibiotics or else you can easily become re-infected! Anyone treated for chlamydia should be re-tested 6 months afterwards.
IF IT ISN’T TREATED, CAN IT LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS PROBLEMS?
In persons with vaginas, untreated Chlamydia can lead to a serious infection called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If Chlamydia is not treated, up to 30 percent of these infected persons may develop PID. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can lead to infertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus) or chronic pelvic pain. For pregnant people, chlamydia can also cause miscarriage, preterm birth and low birth weight.
In persons with penises/testicles, untreated Chlamydia can cause prostate swelling, inflammation of the urethra, infection of the tube that transports sperm from the testes (epididymitis), and, rarely, infertility.
Chlamydia can make you more prone to other STIs. In rare cases Chlamydia can lead to arthritis, skin rashes and sores (Reiter’s syndrome).
HOW TO BOOK AND PREPARE YOURSELF FOR AN APPOINTMENT
Booking an appointment with us is easy! Give us a call at 902.455.9656 ext. 0. You will be speaking with either a volunteer or medical administrator. We cannot book appointments by email or Facebook. You cannot book an appointment for someone else, even if they are your partner or child. We will need to speak with them directly. To book, we will need your full name, birth date, phone number, and a very brief reason for your visit. That’s it! The person on the phone will outline anything you need to know to prepare for your appointment. For most general appointments, we run very short waitlists! While this is not a guarantee, we can often book you in within 1-2 weeks from the day you call.
Make sure you bring your valid provincial health card with you to your appointment. Clients without health cards are subject to doctors and lab fees.
Are you a youth? You do not need parental consent for any of our appointments.
Don’t have access to or lost your health card? You are entitled to your health card information! Call MSI toll-free at 1-800-563-8880 (in Nova Scotia) or at 902-496-7008 from Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. We require the number and the expiry date. Another tip: take a picture of your card! You will never lose it again!
Oral, vaginal, and anal STI tests have no preparation.
Penile urethral testing (urine test) requires no urinating for 2 hours prior to the appointment.