How to Get Tested for Chlamydia

Two Parts:Understanding the Risks and SymptomsGetting Tested

Chlamydia is a relatively common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis.[1] In 2012, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia.[2] Both genders can contract chlamydia (much more common in women), although it's difficult to know if you're infected because it doesn't often cause obvious symptoms. As such, it's important to get tested for chlamydia on a regular basis if you're at high risk for getting infected because it's easy to treat, but potentially devastating to your health if left untreated.

Part 1
Understanding the Risks and Symptoms

  1. Image titled Cure Genital Warts in Men Step 1
    Know if you're at risk. Not everyone should get tested for chlamydia, but those at higher risk for the infection should at least once per year. Factors that greatly increase your risk of contracting a chlamydia infection include: having multiple sex partners over the course of a year; not using condoms consistently during sexual encounters; having a history of other sexually transmitted diseases or infections; and being sexually active and younger than 25 years old.[3] Gay and bisexual men have a much greater risk of chlamydia infection compared to heterosexual men.
    • If you're over 25, consult your doctor for how often you should be screened. [4]
    • Other reasons why you should consider getting tested include: if you have any unusual discomfort or symptoms with your genitalia; if you think a condom ripped during sex; if one of your previous sex partners develops an STI; or if you're planning on getting pregnant.[5]
    • You can get a chlamydia infection by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. Ejaculation and exchange of semen is not necessary to get infected.
    • Being in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who doesn't have an STI and always using latex condoms during sex are the main ways of reducing your risk (in addition to abstinence, of course).
  2. Image titled Treat Chlamydia Step 1
    Recognize the potential symptoms. The early-stages of chlamydia infections rarely cause signs or symptoms, so waiting for them to appear before you get tested is never a good idea. When symptoms do occur, they usually start between 1-3 weeks after the initial exposure to the chlamydia bacteria.[6] The main signs and symptoms associated with chlamydia include: painful urination, lower abdominal cramps, inflamed mucous membranes within the genitalia, smelly discharge from the vagina/penis, pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding and testicular pain. Not all symptoms occur together or at all. For men, too, you can experience, mucoid or watery urethral discharge and painful urination.
    • When signs and symptoms do occur, they're often mild and fade away quickly, which makes it easy to overlook them.
    • Even if you have no symptoms, you can still pass the infection on to your sex partners.
    • Although quite unusual, a chlamydia bacterial infection can also cause a low-grade fever.
  3. Image titled Deal with Placenta Previa Step 11
    Realize the potential complications. There are numerous health complications associated with a chlamydia infection, which is why it's important to get tested and treated right away if you test positive. The most serious complication for women is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which causes pain and scarring in the uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes.[7] Severe PID can lead to infertility due to scarring and obstruction within the Fallopian tubes. For men, the most serious complications are painful infections within the scrotum (epididymitis) and prostate gland (prostatitis). Chlamydia can't make men infertile, only women.
    • People with chlamydia infections are more likely to get other STIs, such as gonorrhea and HIV.
    • Chlamydia infections in both genders increases the risk of Reiter's syndrome, an inflammatory disease that leads to arthritis and swelling in the eyes and urethra.
    • Pregnant women with chlamydia can pass the infection to their babies during the birth process, which can lead to pneumonia and/or serious eye infections in newborns.[8]
    • If you have chlamydia, your future pregnancies are at a higher risk for being ectopic (a dangerous condition where the fetus implants outside the uterus).
    • A chlamydia infection during pregnancy also makes prematurity more likely.
    • There is also an uncommon condition called Fitzhugh-Curtis Syndrome, where PID evolves into an inflammation of the liver.

Part 2
Getting Tested

  1. Image titled Lose Water Weight Step 16
    Make an appointment with your doctor. If you are at higher risk for chlamydia or experience symptoms, then schedule an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist. Your doctor will give you an exam and take urine / blood tests to see if you have an infection. Remember that the main symptoms of chlamydia (pain with urination, vaginal / penile discharge) are not specific to chlamydia — virtually all STIs and urinary tract infections cause similar symptoms. The correct diagnosis is important because different infections require different treatments (different antibiotic or anti-viral medications).
    • Many medical organizations recommend chlamydia screening for sexually active women younger that 25 years because the infection is often without symptoms.[9]
    • Testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea is usually done simultaneously as the two infections cause very similar symptoms.[10]
    • Women should not douche or use vaginal medicines for 24 hours prior to having a chlamydia test.
    • Try not to urinate for about 2 hours prior to having urine collected for chlamydia testing.
    • Taking antibiotics prior to chlamydia testing may affect the results (hide a positive test).
  2. Image titled Deal With Sarcoidosis Step 2
    Ask your doctor about the nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). The NAAT is the preferred test for chlamydia because it's more sensitive and specific than other tests, can be performed on urine samples from both genders.[11] The NAAT is sensitive to the genetic material (DNA) of chlamydia bacteria — the test is able to amplify the DNA from a urine sample, so it's very accurate with a low percentage of false-positive results. Results take 1-2 days to come back from the lab in most cases.
    • Some medical organizations recommend that all victims of sexual assault get NAAT testing for both chlamydia and gonorrhea infections.
  3. Image titled Detect Ovarian Cancer Step 4
    Think about getting swabbed also. An older method of diagnosing STIs is by swabbing the vaginal / penile discharge and sending it to the lab to grow a culture.[12] If a bacterial culture grows, the lab tech looks under the microscope to identify which bacteria it is. Viral infections don't grow cultures, but bacterial infections do. Females get their cervix swabbed (which is at the back of the vagina), whereas men get their urethra swabbed (a thin swab is inserted about an inch into the opening of the penis). Results take between 5-7 days to come back from the lab.
    • Women can get swabbed for chlamydia during a routine Pap test, which checks for cancerous changes in cells.
    • Some women prefer to swab their own vaginas in privacy, which is fine if they use the same technique the doctor uses — a lubricated speculum is typically needed to spread the vagina open.
    • For men or women who primarily have anal sex, the doctor may swab the anus instead of the genitalia.


  • Chlamydia is the most common bacteria-caused STI in the United States, so doctors are very familiar with its clinical presentation and how to test for it.
  • Pregnant women diagnosed with chlamydia during their 1st trimester should be retested within 3-6 months, preferably in their 3rd trimester.[13]
  • An older screening test sometimes used for chlamydia is called direct fluorescent antibody stain (DFA), which detects chlamydia antigens in a swab or urine sample by staining them a different color.[14]
  • Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics and usually responds very well to it.[15] You may get a one-time dose or may need to take the medication for up to 10 days. Your sexual partner will also have to take antibiotics, even if they have no symptoms.
  • With antibiotic treatment, chlamydia infections usually resolve within 1-2 weeks.

Article Info

Categories: Men's Health | Women’s Health