Explaining Chlamydia

Explaining a condition to a patient requires that you know about it, and also that you explain it such that the patient understands it. Here’s some information from the NHS website in normal-people language.

Topics to cover:

  • What is it?
  • What causes it?
  • What symptoms does it cause?
  • How does the test work?
  • What’s the treatment?
  • What’s the prognosis?
  • What do I need to do now?
  • Where can I get more info?

What is it?

It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK for both men and women, and most people who have it don’t even know they’ve got it.

What causes it?

A bacterium, called Chlamydia trachomatis

What symptoms does it cause?

  • Often absolutely nothing
  • Minor feelings of sickness, fatigue, fever
  • Burns when you pee
  • Unusual discharge from vagina/penis/back passage
  • Tummy pain (women)
  • Pain when you have sex (women)
  • Pain in the balls (usually men)

How does the test work?

You can have the test at:

  • GP
  • Sexual health clinic
  • Antenatal clinic
  • Contraception clinic
  • The National Chlamydia Screening Programme if <25
  • or buy one from pharmacy (although it’s better to use an NHS one, partly because it’s free, but also because we know how well they work)

The test is either a urine sample or a swab, it’s free and confidential.

What’s the treatment?

It’s very easy to treat, and very easy to cure. The treatment is with antibiotics, and you’ll have either:

  • a one-off dose
    • this would be with a drug called azithromycin
  • a daily or twice-daily dose for a week or two
    • this would usually be doxycycline
      • one tablet twice a day for a week
      • maybe a bit longer if needed

Are there any side effects?

Some people do notice some side effects but they’re usually very mild. Things you might feel:

  • tummy pain
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea
  • women may get vaginal thrush

What’s the prognosis?

If you take the antibiotics as prescribed, you should be completely back to your healthy self. It’s important to treat, as if we leave it to grumble away it can develop into a problem, if it spreads up the reproductive organs. It can affect a pregnancy and it can lead to infertility if left for a long time, so it’s good to sort it now.

What should I do now?

The best thing to do is to take the test, to see if you need treating, and if it does turn out to be positive:

  • take the antibiotics as prescribed
  • tell anyone you’ve had sex with in the last 6 months so that they can get tested and treated if needed
    • If you’re uncomfortable contacting a partner, then the clinic can do it for you
  • talk to your current sexual partner about condoms
  • avoid having sex until you and current partner have completed the full course of antibiotics
    • a week if one off azithromycin

Do I need to come back?

  • Not unless:
    • you forget to take the medication or don’t complete the course
    • you’re pregnant
    • your symptoms don’t go away
    • you have sex before finishing the course
  • In which case it’s a good idea to get another test.
  • If you’re under 25 it’s a good idea to take another test at 3 months as the risk of contracting the infection is higher

Patient ICE

Ask if there’s anything in particular that concerns them still, that you can provide more information about (leaflets are your friend)


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