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Sexual health tests

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Adeel Arshad

Authored on 24 January 2024 by Adeel Arshad,

Reviewed 24 January 2024 by Dr Ruch Karunadasa.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK. It is most prevalent in individuals under the age of 25 who are sexually active. It is spread from one individual to another when they engage in unprotected sexual activity.

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which is spread when contaminated genital fluids (semen or vaginal) come into contact with one another during unprotected sexual activity. The most common causes of spreading the infection include -

  • Unprotected sexual activity - this can be vaginal, anal or oral.
  • The use of sexual aids and/or toys which haven't been washed properly or being covered with a new condom with each use.
  • Through direct contact of the genitals of both partners. This means that it is not necessary for penetration, orgasm or ejaculation to occur for the infection to be transmitted.
  • Semen or vaginal fluid infected with chlamydia coming into contact with the eye.

Chlamydia cannot be passed on from one person to another through contact such as kissing, holding hands or hugging. It also cannot be passed by sharing towels, bath water, swimming pools, toilet seats or sharing utensils such as cutlery.

What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

Most individuals with chlamydia do not realise they have the condition due to a lack of presenting symptoms. 66% of women and 50% of men won't have any symptoms at all and of the remaining, some will present symptoms so mild they will go unnoticed. Having said this, some people will develop noticeable symptoms which can include -

  • Pain upon passing urine
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum
  • Woman may also experience a painful stomach.
  • Woman may also bleed after sex or bleed between periods.
  • Men may develop pain in the testicles
  • Men could experience swollen testicles.

Symptoms can present from 1-3 weeks after contracting the infection to months after coming into contact with the infection, or only after spreading to other parts of the body.

If you experience any of these symptoms, then it is best to see a doctor and get tested as soon as possible.

What does the test for Chlamydia involve?

The only way to know for sure if you have chlamydia is to get tested. If you are under 25 then you should get tested at least annually. If you become sexually active with a new partner or have been in a situation where there was the possibility of contracting chlamydia, then you should get tested as soon as possible.

The test for chlamydia is simple and painless. Men will usually be asked to provide a urine sample (ideally this should be taken 1-2 hours after you last passed urine). Women can be asked for either a urine sample or a swab which is used to collect a sample from just inside the vagina or anus.

Results will normally be available after 7-10 days. If your regular partner has tested positive then the chances of you having acquired the infection are extremely high and you would be treated also, without the need to wait for test results.

What are the treatment options?

The usual treatment is a short course of antibiotics. If you take the medication exactly as prescribed, then over 95% of infections will be eradicated by the time the course finishes.

The two most commonly used antibiotics are -

  • Azithromycin (given as 2 or 4 tablets at once as a single dose)
  • Doxycycline (2 capsules daily for 1 week)

If you are pregnant or have an allergy, then the doctor may prescribe an alternative antibiotic to those mentioned above. The course length can also be longer if the doctor suspects there may be complications from the chlamydia.

When can I have sex again?

You and your partner should abstain from engaging in sexual activity (oral, vaginal or anal) for the duration of the treatment and for 24 hours after taking your last dose. If you have been prescribed the once only azithromycin dose, then you should not have sex for 7 days after taking this dose.

This is to make sure you do not catch the infection again straight away or pass the infection onto someone else. You do not need to be tested again after the treatment is complete. Some patients will be asked to have a re-test if -

  • They had sex with a partner before their current treatment was completed.
  • You didn't take your medication as prescribed - this includes forgetting to take your medication.
  • You still have symptoms which could indicate the infection is still present.
  • If you are pregnant.
  • If you are under 25 then you should be offered a repeat test after 3 months as you are in a higher risk group for re-infection.

Chlamydia in pregnancy?

Chlamydia can result in complications during pregnancy. This can include -

  • Premature birth
  • Baby can be born with the infection. It can present itself as conjunctivitis (eye infection) or pneumonia (lung infection).
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) also increases the likelihood of you experiencing difficulties in getting pregnant.
  • There is an increased chance of you experiencing an ectopic pregnancy if you develop PID.

Useful Information

Click here for the NHS information page on chlamydia

Click here for more information on sexually transmitted diseases provided by Sexwise

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