What it is

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by a bacteria, and if untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women.

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Chlamydia in the rectum can cause pain, discharge and bleeding. Or there may not be any symptoms. These symptoms may come and go. But remember: "symptom-free" doesn't mean "infection-free".

The symptoms

It can be hard to tell if you have chlamydia. More than 70% of women and 50% of men with the infection don't show signs or symptoms. Even if everything seems normal, you may have the infection.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of a chlamydia infection:

  • Pain during urination
  • Vaginal discharge or irritation
  • Painful sex
  • Bleeding during or after sex
  • Discharge from penis
  • Itching around the urethra (the opening to the penis)
  • "Pain and swelling in the testicles (balls)

Chlamydia in the rectum can cause pain, discharge and bleeding. Or there may not be any symptoms.

What it can do to you

If you let it go untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women.

In women, chlamydia can seriously infect the womb and fallopian tubes. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause long-term pelvic pain and affect a woman's ability to get pregnant. Sometimes, it can lead to miscarriages or an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, which can be very dangerous.

Without treatment, chlamydia can also be passed onto a baby during childbirth, causing pneumonia or eye infections.

In men, untreated chlamydia can lead to swelling and pain in the testicles. This condition is called epididymitis. It can also cause sterility if scar tissue blocks the tubes that carry the sperm.

How you prevent it

Remember to always practice safer sex and use condoms. This will lower the risk of getting chlamydia or other STIs.

If you find out that you have chlamydia, your partner(s) need to be told that they could have an infection - even if there aren't any symptoms. If you have concerns about telling your partner(s), contact a public health nurse.

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The public health nurse can suggest ways to handle the situation or they will contact your partner(s) for you. Of course, your name will be kept confidential.

You can get chlamydia from having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or sharing sex toys with an infected person.

If you think you have it

If you suspect you have chlamydia, visit your health care provider or sexual health clinic to get tested immediately. If you test positive, there are a number of treatments available to you.

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Get tested

Normally, a urine sample is required.

For women, chlamydia tests also involve taking a fluid sample from the cervix (the opening to the womb). Many women mistakenly assume STI tests are also performed during the regular Pap exam. Be sure to ask your health care provider to test you for STIs, and don't forget to tell your partner(s) to ask a health care provider about STI testing as well.

For men, the health care provider or public health nurse may also take a sample of discharge from the urethra. It's also common to test the throat or rectum for infection.

Whether you're young or old, straight or LGBTQ, routine testing is good way to take care of your sexual health. For confidential support, testing or counselling, visit a health care provider or sexual health clinic in your community. Testing is easy and free of charge.

Get treated

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotic pills. Even if your symptoms seem to have disappeared, it's very important to take all your medication as directed by the health care provider or sexual health clinic. You can return to having sex only after you've completed your treatment and the health care provider or sexual health clinic says it's okay.

Follow up

Often, your health care provider or sexual health clinic will schedule a follow-up test. These tests are just to make sure your infection has been treated effectively. These tests are usually done 4 weeks after you've finished your pills.

Remember:

  • If you have an untreated STI like chlamydia, it's easier to get other STIs such as HIV from someone who has it.
  • It's possible to have more than one infection at a time, so it's important to be tested for other STIs.

If you decide to talk to your partner(s) yourself, learn how to talk comfortably about it.