The main points
- Chlamydia can infect the cervix (top part of vagina), urethra (where urine comes out) and rectum (anal passage).
- Most people infected with chlamydia have no symptoms at all.
- Chlamydia responds effectively and quickly to a single dose of antibiotics.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmissible infection (STI) caused by bacteria. It can infect the cervix (top part of vagina), urethra (where urine comes out), rectum (anal passage) and occasionally the throat and eyes. It is more common in young people but can affect anyone who is sexually active.
How do you get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is mainly passed on during unprotected sexual contact with someone who has chlamydia. Sexual contact may be vaginal, anal or oral sex. Chlamydia can also be passed on by touching the genitals with fingers (if you have infected fluids on your hand) or sharing sex toys.
Chlamydia can affect anyone who is sexually active. It can be passed on whether your sexual partner/s are the same sex as you or a different sex.
How do I know if I have chlamydia?
Regular STI testing is the best way to know if you have chlamydia.
Most people with chlamydia do not know because they do not have symptoms.
Some people may have symptoms such as:
- smelly or unusual discharge (fluid) from the vagina, penis or anus
- abnormal or irregular bleeding from the vagina (especially after sex)
- difficulty or pain (discomfort, stinging or burning) during urination (peeing)
- redness at the opening of the penis
- pelvic (lower abdomen) pain
- testicular pain
- rectal (anal passage) pain
- pain during sex
What does a test involve?
Testing for chlamydia is simple. Usually, you can choose to pee in a small jar or use a cotton swab to collect a sample from your vagina, penis, anus and throat.
You may choose to test for other STIs or BBVs at the same time as testing for chlamydia. Read more information on STI and BBV testing
Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) provides expert, confidential STI and BBV testing to Victorians. We also provide expert information, healthcare and support on a range of reproductive and sexual health matters. For more information on SHV clinical services, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia responds effectively and quickly to a single dose of antibiotic tablets. Occasionally you may need a longer course of antibiotics.
If you have chlamydia in your rectum or if you are pregnant, it is recommended you have a repeat test 4 weeks you have finished your treatment, to check the treatment has worked.
If you have symptoms and your doctor or nurse thinks they are most likely to be caused by chlamydia, you may be offered treatment before your test results come back.
It is recommended you avoid sexual contact or use barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) for 7 days after you have been treated or until you (and your current sexual partner/s) have finished treatment.
Where do I get treatment?
Your doctor or nurse will give you the antibiotics or a script which you can take to the pharmacy. You cannot buy medications to treat chlamydia over the counter without a script.
What if I don't get treated?
Chlamydia can cause health complications if not treated.
Untreated chlamydia could lead to:
- infertility (inability for you or your sexual partner/s to become pregnant).
- passing the infection to your sexual partner/s — even if you do not have symptoms.
- increased risk of getting or spreading other sexually transmissible infections.
Will chlamydia come back?
Chlamydia is cured by effective treatment, but you do not develop any immunity. It is possible to get another chlamydia infection.
To avoid being reinfected with chlamydia it is recommended you avoid sexual contact or use barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) for 7 days after you (and your current sexual partner/s) have finished treatment.
It is recommended you have a repeat chlamydia test 3 months after you have finished your treatment. This test will check that you have not been reinfected.
Safer sex, including regular STI (and BBV) testing is the best way to lower your risk of getting chlamydia.
Do I need to let my sexual partner/s know I have chlamydia?
If you have been diagnosed with chlamydia it is recommended you let your sexual partner/s know so they can make informed decisions about ways to lower the risk of passing it on and be tested and treated. If your current sexual partner/s are not treated, you could end up with chlamydia again.
It is recommended you contact any sexual partner/s you have had in the last 6 months.
There are some great websites to support you informing your sexual partners via a phone call, text message, letter or email. There are ways of doing this either personally or anonymously.
- Let Them Know
- The Drama Downunder - for men who have sex with men
- Better to know – for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Your doctor or nurse can assist with informing your current or previous sexual partner/s.
What should I do if a sexual partner of mine has been diagnosed with an STI?
You may be notified that a sexual partner has been diagnosed with an STI or a BBV. Notification may be in person or via a phone call, text message, letter or email. You may have an infection too and be unaware as you may not have symptoms. See your doctor or nurse to discuss ways to lower the chances of passing it on, get tested and treated.
Will chlamydia affect my pregnancy or breastfeeding?
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding can be infected with the same STIs and BBVs as people who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you are infected with an STI or BBV during pregnancy it can cause serious health complications for both you and your baby. Complications can include:
- Infection in the uterus (womb).
- Passing the infection to the baby (during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding) causing health conditions.
- Premature (early) birth.
If you are planning a pregnancy or already pregnant, it is recommended you and your sexual partner/s have STI and BBV screening tests, even if you have been tested in the past. You can speak to your doctor, nurse or midwife for more information.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and considering treatment for an STI or BBV, ask your doctor, nurse, or midwife about the possible effects of the treatment or medicine on your baby or breastfeeding. Chlamydia treatment is usually safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.
How can I lower my risk of getting STIs and BBVs?
You can lower your risk of getting STIs and BBVs by using barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) correctly during any type of sex (vaginal, anal or oral sex) and when sharing sex toys.
Barrier protection is not 100% effective at preventing STIs and BBVs.
You can also lower your risk of getting a BBV by:
- not sharing injecting equipment, razors, nail clippers
- only getting tattoos and piercing in regulated places
- talking to your doctor or nurse about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you are at risk of HIV exposure.
You can also lower your risk of getting an STI or BBV by both you and your sexual partners having regular STI and BBV testing. To get an STI or BBV test at Sexual Health Victoria, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
Where to get more information and support
- Sexual Health Victoria
- Better Health Channel
- The Centre Clinic – a safe and friendly general practice, providing care for LGBTI community members as well as specialist medical care for people living with HIV, and expert sexual health screening and treatment.
- DirectLine 1800 888 236 – support for people affected by alcohol and other drugs including information on where to obtain new needles and syringes.
- Equinox – for transgender services
- Headspace – for young people
- Melbourne Sexual Health Centre – a specialist sexual health clinic.
- Minus 18 – for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health – for culturally and linguistically diverse women.
- PRONTO! – a peer-led service for men who have sex with men.
- Thorne Harbour Health (formerly Victorian AIDS Council)
- TouchBase – information, support and services for LGBTI people.
- A doctor or nurse.
- Your local community health service
If you are using the internet for information, only use reliable and reputable websites. Be aware of websites containing inaccurate and harmful information and imagery.