Chlamydia: Signs, symptoms and treatment

Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in Ireland
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Chlamydia is a serious bacterial infection that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and infertility in both men and women. Chlamydia can also lead to other serious problems. You can become infected with it by having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral) or it can be passed from a pregnant person to a baby during birth.

Symptoms of chlamydia

Chlamydia is known as a ‘silent infection’ because around 70% of women and 50% of men affected by it don't have any symptoms.

However, even if you have no symptoms, it can still cause serious damage to your reproductive system, and you can still pass it onto a sexual partner. So if you have unprotected sex, then it’s important to visit a sexual health clinic or a doctor for a check-up.

Women

Women, or people with a cervix, often have no symptoms. Statistics show that only 30% of women will have symptoms.

If they do have symptoms, they might include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in the bum or a discharge from it
  • A burning feeling when you pee
  • Painful periods 
  • Bleeding between periods
  • An unusual vaginal discharge

Men

Men, or people with a penis, might have no symptoms.

If they do have symptoms they might include:

  • A watery or thick liquid from the penis
  • Pain when peeing
  • Swelling
  • Pain in the testicles (balls)
  • Pain in the bum or a discharge from it

What happens if you don’t treat chlamydia

Untreated chlamydia can lead to inflammation of the cervix, and inflammation of the urethra in people with a penis. It can cause chronic (long-term) pain if left untreated.

Fertility issues

Chlamydia can spread to the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes, causing infection and pelvic inflammatory disease. Both of these conditions can cause infertility or increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy where the foetus develops outside the womb).

Infection may spread to the tubes that carry sperm, causing pain and fever. In severe cases, this may make a person infertile.

Chlamydia and pregnancy

If a pregnant person has chlamydia, it may increase the chances of premature labour. It may also cause an infection in the uterus after delivery. The baby could also develop an eye infection, a lung infection or pneumonia.

Risk of other inections

Untreated chlamydia can increase your chances of becoming infected with HIV or of spreading it to someone else.

Reiter’s Syndrome

In some very rare cases a syndrome called Reiter’s Syndrome can occur. This syndrome causes urethritis, conjunctivitis, arthritis and skin lesions.

What treatment can you get?

Visit your doctor or STI clinic to have the infection diagnosed. If you have chlamydia they will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Don't have sex until the infection has cleared and until you finish your treatment. You may also be tested for other STIs, since chlamydia is associated with gonorrhoea and syphilis. You must go back to the doctor and check the infection is gone. It's best not to have sex until you get the all clear. Your partner and recent partners should also be treated.

For a list of free STI clinics in Ireland, click here. Testing is painless, quick, and totally worth it. Check out our run down of what will happen at an STI clinic here.

How can you prevent Chlamydia?

Condoms help protect against Chlamydia. Make sure you use them every single time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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