Understanding Chlamydia: Diagnosis and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 30, 2023
6 min read

The only way to know for sure that you have chlamydia is through a chlamydia test. If you think you have chlamydia, your doctor may test your discharge, urine, or other body fluids for the bacteria that causes chlamydia, Chlamydia trachomatis. They will collect these samples through two methods:

  1. A first-catch urine test: You’ll collect your sample in a sterile cup by peeing into it. Your doctor may tell you not to pee for 2 hours before the test to get a more accurate result. 
  2. A swab test: Your doctor will use a swab, a small cotton bud, or a brush to collect samples from your anus, urethra, vagina, throat, or eyes. If you prefer to swab yourself, you can ask your doctor, and they may tell you how to. This method may cause slight discomfort. 

Results often come quickly, usually in a day. 

Chlamydia home tests can be more convenient and save you time and money going to the doctor. You can buy an at-home test kit from an online sexual health provider like LetsGetChecked, whose at-home chlamydia and gonorrhea test became the first to receive FDA marketing authorization. Collect your swab or urine sample following the instructions that come with your kit, and send it back to a lab. You’ll receive your test result in a few days or weeks, along with any next steps regarding treatment. 

Don’t use an at-home test if you or the person you had sex with already have chlamydia symptoms. Instead, tell your doctor immediately so they can test and treat you.   

You can also get free and low-cost chlamydia testing from health centers at colleges or universities, local health departments, and nonprofit organizations like Planned Parenthood that offer HIV/STI testing. 

Here's how you can prepare for your chlamydia test:

  • Don’t pee for at least 2 hours before your test
  • Don’t douche or use any creams in or around your vagina
  • Don’t take any antibiotics

When to get tested for chlamydia

Chlamydia is a serious but preventable and curable sexually transmitted disease (STD). It spreads through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Most people have no symptoms. But if you do, they may show up about 3 weeks after you have sex with someone who's infected. 

Chlamydia symptoms may look like symptoms of other STIs and include:

  • Unusual penis and vaginal discharge
  • A burning feeling or pain when urinating (peeing)
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain, discharge, and bleeding in your anus
  • Irritated or itchy genitals
  • Bleeding after sex

Chlamydia infection in your throat often doesn’t cause any symptoms or may cause a sore throat.

Many people don't know they have chlamydia until it's caused serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs like the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes. Because of that, if you're sexually active and under age 25 or at higher risk, it's a good idea to test for chlamydia once a year, even if you don’t have symptoms. 

If you’re pregnant, you may get tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit. Ask your doctor about STI tests you'll be taking during the course of your pregnancy. Get treated immediately if your test results show you have chlamydia so it doesn’t also spread to your baby during birth. Chlamydia in newborns can cause a range of complications, from conjunctivitis (pinkeye) to pneumonia. The infection may also last for a year or more.  

Can chlamydia be cured?

Chlamydia can be well treated with antibiotics and is cured in 95% of uncomplicated cases. But repeat infection often happens with chlamydia. Having sex with someone who doesn’t get treated for it can make you more likely to have a reinfection. If you're assigned female at birth, repeat infections put you at risk of serious reproductive health and pregnancy issues like ectopic pregnancy and PID. Get tested for chlamydia 3 months after treating your initial infection, whether or not you or your partner got full treatment.  

If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics that you take by mouth. 

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic that you only need to take once, it's important that you don't have sex for 7 days, as you might still be able to spread the infection to people you have sex with during this period. If you get a 7-day treatment, don't have sex until after your treatment and your symptoms are gone. 

Don’t share your medications with anyone, including your partner(s), and don’t stop taking them even if you feel better and have no symptoms. 

Chlamydia medication

Chlamydia is well treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics include:

  • Azithromycin, a single dose of 1 gram
  • Doxycycline, 100 milligrams twice a day for 7 days
  • Tetracycline, 500 milligrams four times a day for 7 days
  • Erythromycin, 500 milligrams twice a day for 7 days
  • Ofloxacin, 200-400 milligrams twice a day for 7 days

Chlamydia treatment may cause mild side effects in some people. These side effects include: 

  • Stomachache 
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling sick
  • Vaginal yeast infection

Chlamydia cannot go away on its own, but treatment with antibiotics can cure it. Leaving chlamydia untreated can lead to serious and long-term health problems like: 

  • Increased risk of getting and spreading HIV
  • Fertility problems
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Pre-term delivery
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Swollen joints (arthritis)
  • Inflamed eyes
  • Stomach and pelvic pain

If you take a chlamydia test and your results show you have it, it's important that you tell your partners. Talk to anyone you’ve had sex with 60 days before you noticed your symptoms or got diagnosed. That way, they can get tested for chlamydia and any other STIs and start treatment as needed.

People often have chlamydia with other STIs like HIV, syphilis, herpes, and gonorrhea. Get tested for other STIs and get treatment for any you might have. 

Chlamydia is a serious but curable STI. Get tested for chlamydia and other STIs If you think you have it, have symptoms like unusual discharge, sores, and rashes around your genitals and pee that burns, or have had sex with someone who tells you they’ve had chlamydia. If you have chlamydia, your doctor will recommend antibiotics, which work well for treating it. Also, tell anyone you’ve had sex within 60 days before you received a chlamydia diagnosis so they can also get tested and treated if needed.

Can you tell if someone has chlamydia?

No, there’s no way to tell if someone has chlamydia, even when they have common symptoms like unusual genital discharge. The only way to know for sure that you or a sex partner has chlamydia is by taking a test.