Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is a bacterial infection spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has the infection.
A chlamydia test looks for chlamydia bacteria in a sample of fluid from your body. The sample may be:
- Urine (pee)
- Fluid that’s usually swabbed from the:
- Urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body)
- Rectum (the last part of your intestine that connects to the anus).
Chlamydia often has no symptoms, so you may spread the disease without even knowing you have the infection. If a pregnant person has chlamydia, they can give the infection to their baby during childbirth.
The disease is easily treated with antibiotic medicine. But if it’s not treated, it can cause serious complications. The infection can spread in the female reproductive system and cause infertility. It can also lead to reactive arthritis (uncommon).
A chlamydia test can diagnose the disease so you can get treatment before you develop lasting health problems or spread the disease to others.
Other names: Chlamydia NAAT or NAT, Chlamydia/GC STD Panel
What is it used for?
A chlamydia test is used to find out whether or not you have a chlamydia infection. The test is also done three months after treatment for chlamydia to check for re-infection.
Why do I need a chlamydia test?
Chlamydia is a very common STD, especially in sexually active people ages 15 to 24. But chlamydia usually doesn’t cause symptoms, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations recommend regular screening tests if your risk of getting chlamydia is high.
If you are a woman or a transgender or gender diverse person with a cervix (lower part of the uterus), you should:
- Get tested for chlamydia at least once a year if you are:
- Younger than 25 and having sex
- Age 25 or older and have a higher risk of getting chlamydia because you:
- Have a new sex partner or more than one partner
- Have a sex partner who is having sex with others
- Have a sex partner with an STD
- Don’t use condoms correctly every time
Regular chlamydia testing at least once a year is also recommended if you:
- Have HIV.
- Are a man who has sex with men (MSM) or a transgender diverse person with a penis who has sex with men. Test every 3 to 6 months if you or your partner have sex with more than one person, or if you have other sexual behaviors that may increase your risk for getting chlamydia.
The best testing schedule for you may be different than the recommendations. Ask your provider how often you should get tested.
Your provider will order a test if your sex partner has been diagnosed with chlamydia or if you have symptoms. Symptoms of chlamydia may include:
- An unusual discharge (fluid) from your genitals (penis or vagina) or rectum
- Irritation or itching around your genitals
- Pain or burning when you urinate (pee)
- Rectal pain or bleeding if chlamydia infects the rectum
What happens during a chlamydia test?
To do a chlamydia test, you will need to provide a sample of fluid from the part of your body that may be infected. There are two ways to gather the sample:
- A first-catch urine sample. You use a sterile cup to a collect urine from the very first part of your urine stream. To get an accurate test result, you will need to stop urinating for two hours before the test.
- A swab sample. Your provider will use a special swab or brush to gather cells, usually from the genital area (the urethra or the vagina). This may cause some brief discomfort. In certain cases, the rectum, cervix, throat, or eyes may be swabbed. Your provider may give you the option to swab yourself following special instructions.
Test results are usually ready in a day. There are some rapid chlamydia tests that can provide results in 90 minutes or less.
You can also buy at-home collection kits to test for chlamydia and other STDs. With these kits, you collect a swab or urine sample at home and send it to a lab for testing. It’s important to follow all the instructions carefully.
You should not use an at-home test if you have symptoms of chlamydia or if your partner has chlamydia. In that case, it’s important to talk with your provider right away so you don’t delay treatment.
Ask your provider whether at-home chlamydia testing is right for you.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
Preparations for a chlamydia test depend on the type of sample you will be providing. You may need to avoid antibiotic medicines and vaginal douches or creams for 24 hours before your test. Ask your provider if there are any special instructions for your test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There are no known risks to having a chlamydia test.
What do the results mean?
- A negative test result means that you did not have a chlamydia infection when the sample was collected.
- A positive test result means you have been infected with chlamydia.
If your test result is positive, you will need antibiotics to treat your infection. Your provider will give you instructions on how to take your medicine. To make sure your infection is cured, follow the instructions carefully and finish all the medicine.
You will also need to let your sexual partner/s know you tested positive for chlamydia so that they can be tested and treated if necessary. Three months after you finish treatment, you will need to be tested for chlamydia again to check for a new infection. That’s because repeat infections are very common. Ask your provider to tell you how often to get tested after that.
Is there anything else I need to know about a chlamydia test?
Chlamydia testing can help you avoid lasting health problems and stop the spread of this disease. You can also take steps to protect yourself from getting chlamydia.
The most reliable way to prevent chlamydia or any STD is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of infection by:
- Having sex with only one partner who has tested negative for STDs and who has sex only with you (mutual monogamy)
- Using condoms correctly every time you have sex