Sex Talk

How do I know if I have chlamydia?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions

17 December 2017 - 00:00
Symptoms of chlamydia may include itching or burning in or around the vagina.
Symptoms of chlamydia may include itching or burning in or around the vagina.
Image: 123RF/tharakorn

Q. I've heard that unprotected sex can result in chlamydia. How would I know if I had it?

A. Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is spread via vaginal, anal, or oral sex and can infect both men and women.

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. However, it can still cause damage to your reproductive system. Symptoms may appear after several weeks following infection.


Symptoms in women can include abnormal vaginal discharge that may have an odour, bleeding between periods, painful periods, abdominal pain, pain when having sex, itching or burning in or around the vagina, inflamed glands and pain when urinating.

Symptoms in men may include small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis, painful urination, burning and itching around the opening of the penis, pain and swelling around the testicles.

A genital swab or urine sample can be sent to a laboratory to be analysed for the presence of the bacteria.

Having a chlamydia infection while pregnant may lead to premature labour. The infection can pass to the baby during delivery, leading to eye infections. If you are pregnant, get tested for chlamydia at your next antenatal visit.


Chlamydia can be cured with the right treatment. Guidelines provide updated treatment recommendations and it is important that you take all the medication your doctor prescribes. Chlamydial infection in infants is also treated with antibiotics.

Repeat infection with chlamydia is common, even if you have been treated before. Multiple chlamydial infections increase a woman's risk of serious reproductive health complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease and damage to the fallopian tubes, leading to increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Using a condom or dental dam every time you have sex is your best protection.

• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, DISA Clinic, 011-886-2286, visit

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