What to expect, treatments and more

Chlamydia trachomatis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Chlamydia can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

It can be difficult to tell if you have chlamydia because it doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms. However, it is easy for a doctor to take samples to test for chlamydia.

You may have a chlamydia infection in your:

Learn more about the ins and outs of testing and how you can do it.

You may not have any symptoms of chlamydia at first, which is why this particular STI is so easy to pass on to others without knowing it.

After 1-2 weeks of exposure, you may begin to see signs of infection. Symptoms can include:

To determine if the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis is present, a medical professional will take cell samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. This can be collected via a swab or a urine sample.

Here’s what to expect if you’re tested for chlamydia.

Swab method if you have a vagina

To collect a sample for testing, you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist down and wear a paper gown or paper blanket. You will be asked to lie down on an examination table and place your feet on supports called stirrups.

A healthcare professional (doctor, nurse, or medical assistant) will use a swab or very small brush to dab or gently rub one of the following areas:

  • your vagina
  • inside your vagina at your cervix (the opening to your uterus)
  • your anus
  • in your mouth and throat

If more than one sample is taken, a new, clean swab will be used for each sample. The swabs are sent to the laboratory to be tested to determine if the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis is present.

Sampling method if you have a penis

You will be asked to remove your pants and underwear and cover them with a paper blanket. You may be asked to sit on an examination table.

A medical professional (doctor, nurse, or medical assistant) will dab the head of your penis with alcohol or another sterile agent. Then they will insert a cotton swab into your urethra at the tip of your penis.

The healthcare provider may also use a cotton swab or a very small brush to gently scrub your anus, the inside of your mouth and throat, or both.

If more than one sample is taken, a new, clean swab will be used for each sample. The swabs are sent to the laboratory to be tested to determine if the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis is present.

Urine sample

A healthcare professional will give you a sample cup to urinate in. You may also receive a packet containing a cleansing wipe, or there may be individually wrapped cleansing wipes in the toilet.

To collect a clean urine sample, you will need to clean your genital area by wiping it with a cleansing wipe. Next, start urinating, then slide the sample cup into the urine stream. Collect the sample and finish peeing.

Submit the sample as instructed by your doctor’s office. Often inside the doctor’s office toilet there is a shelf with a small door for you to leave your urine sample. The medical staff will open the small door after you leave the toilet and bring your sample to the laboratory for analysis.

You may be asked to avoid taking antibiotics for 24 hours before the test. If you have a vagina, your healthcare professional may recommend that you stop using vaginal douches or creams for 24 hours before your test. If you are taking a urine test, try not to urinate for at least 1 hour before the test.

If you think you have chlamydia, avoid sex until you get your test results.

There are home kits to collect samples for chlamydia testing. These tests are mailed to a lab for analysis, and the results will be sent to you. 2015 research found that home tests can be as effective in diagnosing chlamydia as swabs taken at your doctor’s office.

However, it is important to note that home test kits can sometimes return false negative results. A study 2017 asked men to self-collect a sample for chlamydia testing both at a clinic and at home using a postal kit. The researchers found that more than a third of the samples sent by post were missing a positive result detected in the samples taken at the clinic.

The researchers note that it’s possible that the collection technique when using a home test could affect sample quality and therefore affect your result. For this reason, be sure to follow all sample collection instructions carefully if you choose to do a home test for chlamydia.

Compare the best home chlamydia tests here.

If you receive a positive result from a home test kit, you will need to go to a doctor immediately for treatment. Until you have completed your treatment, you can give chlamydia to your sex partners.

If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, prompt treatment will help prevent any long-term complications. The key is to test for this bacterial infection before it spreads.

If you receive a negative result on a chlamydia home test, but you know you have been exposed to chlamydia or have symptoms of chlamydia, it is still important to see a doctor. They can perform a test in their office to help make a diagnosis.

You can get a chlamydia test from:

  • your attending physician
  • a gynecologist
  • an urgent care facility
  • a family planning clinic, such as Planned Parenthood
  • student health clinics
  • your local health department
  • a home test kit service

Since it is a bacterial infection, chlamydia is treated with oral antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, you will need to take your prescription for about 7 days, According to the CDC. Be sure to complete the entire prescription. Just because your symptoms improve doesn’t mean the infection is completely gone.

You will also need to avoid all sexual activity during your treatment until the infection clears up. This will reduce the risk of reinfection or transmission of infection.

Due to the prevalence of chlamydia, it is important to have annual tests if you:

  • are under 25 and also sexually active, especially if you are female
  • having sex with multiple partners
  • have a history of STIs or are being treated for another type of STI
  • do not use a condom regularly
  • are a man and you have sex with other men
  • having a partner who told you they recently tested positive for chlamydia

You may need to get tested more than once a year.

If you are pregnant, you will need to be tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal appointment. Your gynecologist or nurse midwife may also recommend another test later in your pregnancy if you have any of the risk factors above.

Chlamydia can cause complications in pregnant women and also lead to problems at birth, such as pneumonia and eye infections.

After You Have Chlamydia, You Should Be Tested Again after 3 months. This helps reduce the risk of reinfection or transmission of infection.

It may take a few days to get results from a swab test, similar to a Pap test. If you have a vagina, you may also be able to get an at-home kit to perform the vaginal tests yourself.

Your doctor will call you with your test results. Be sure to give your doctor your preferred phone number where you can have privacy, such as a cell phone number. If you don’t want them to leave you a voicemail, be sure to tell them before you leave your date.

A urine test is much faster to analyze. Your doctor should be able to give you the results on the day of your appointment. The downside is that urine tests may not be as accurate as traditional swab tests.

However, urine tests may be more appropriate for those designated male at birth. It is also used for more advanced signs of chlamydia, as your body will have more bacteria to detect at this stage.

If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, your partners should also be tested. Since this bacterial infection is highly contagious, it is easily spread through sexual contact.

You and your partners may need regular testing until the infection clears up completely. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use barrier methods during sexual contact, such as using condoms.

What is a rapid chlamydia test?

The rapid chlamydia test means patients can receive processing immediately, instead of having to wait. If you test positive, you have the option of getting treatment right away rather than having to wait for a prescription.

Which chlamydia test is best?

A cervical swab provides the most accurate test results for chlamydia and can easily be done during a routine Pap test. Plus, you have the added benefit of a general genital health checkup.

How long can you have chlamydia without knowing it?

The majority of people with chlamydia have no symptoms.

And even if you have symptoms, they may not appear until 1 week to 3 months or more after the infection was passed on to you through sexual intercourse.

Chlamydia is a highly contagious but extremely treatable STI. The key to successful treatment is early diagnosis.

Even if you don’t have chlamydia symptoms, you may want to get tested. This is especially true if you have risk factors for chlamydia. The sooner your doctor can diagnose chlamydia, the sooner you’ll be on the path to treatment.

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