Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs that can infect all sexes. Over 1.6 million cases of chlamydia were reported to the CDC in 2021. While the number of reported infections has decreased since 2018, this is likely because the COVID-19 pandemic caused a reduction in regular testing.
People with chlamydia might not have symptoms, making it a silent infection that can threaten reproductive organs and cause extreme damage if undetected.
Chlamydia is an STI contracted through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus.
The bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis, can be transferred without ejaculation or even penetration during sexual contact. For example, the bacteria can be transferred by sharing sex toys that have not been properly cleaned or covered with a new condom with each use. Or, getting semen or vaginal fluid in one’s eye can also spread infection.
Babies can contract chlamydia during pregnancy if the birth parent lives with it, which could result in conditions like pneumonia and conjunctivitis.
Teens and young adults have the highest rates of chlamydia. These age groups account for two-thirds of new cases, according to data from the CDC.
The CDC also suggests young women are more prone to the infection, with 1 in 20 women between 14 and 24 years old estimated to have chlamydia.
However, men can also contract, carry, and transmit the disease to others.
One of the most significant dangers of chlamydia is its ability to go undetected. It might not cause visible side effects, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Its hidden threat can have lasting impacts.
The disease can affect people with vaginas by causing pelvic inflammatory disease, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancies, and potentially causing infertility. For those with penises, it can cause epididymitis and infertility.
When symptoms are present, they can often take several weeks to appear.
Those with female reproductive systems who are experiencing chlamydia may notice:
abnormal vaginal discharge
pain during sex
a low grade fever
spotting between periods
a burning sensation when urinating
abnormal discharge that’s yellowish and has an unusual odor
Those with male reproductive systems who are experiencing chlamydia may notice:
discharge from their penis
Chlamydia’s symptoms overlap with gonorrhea, another bacterial STI. This makes it hard to tell which infection you might be experiencing.
It’s possible to have chlamydia and gonorrhea simultaneously, but one doesn’t cause the other.
With so many options, you might be wondering how to choose the best at-home test for your needs. Here’s what to consider:
More expensive tests may include testing for more than just one STI. Or the company may offer additional services, like post-testing counseling and free medication delivery, and they may even offer pregnancy tests.
Lab or self-collection
Do you prefer to do everything from home? Or do you like the idea of going in person to a lab? Not everyone is comfortable taking samples, after all.
Sometimes, in-person testing can be faster since you don’t have to wait for a test to arrive in the mail.
If you’re not sure your symptoms are STI-related and you want to talk with a doctor in addition to getting testing, an in-person doctor’s visit may be the best choice for you. A physical exam may be needed to get a diagnosis more quickly.
The CDC recommends that sexually active women younger than 25 years old get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with a new partner, multiple partners, or a partner with an STI should also get tested annually.
Sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea annually. In cases of frequent sexual encounters with multiple partners, the CDC recommends testing every 3–6 months.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of an STI, you should get tested immediately.
Are STI tests accurate?
Data suggests that most STI tests are very accurate with a small margin of error. If used correctly, at-home tests can be as accurate and effective as in-office tests.
How long should I wait before getting an STI test?
The incubation period for chlamydia is 7–21 days. If you’ve had sex with someone who has a positive test result, or if you’ve had a sexual encounter with a new partner, your results can be detected within the incubation period.
It’s recommended to get tested 3 months after treatment to make sure you’re in the clear.
Are at-home STI tests better or worse than in-person tests?
While at-home tests are effective, in-office tests can remove factors, like poor sample collection, which can impact your results. In-office testing has the added benefit of evaluating and testing for other STIs as needed.
For people who are anxious to visit an office in person or have transportation issues, an at-home test can be a convenient step in getting treatment.
Are STI tests covered by insurance?
Many insurance plans cover STI testing through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There’s a high chance you can get STI testing for free or at a reduced price with your health insurance.
Testing for STIs like HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are considered preventive health benefits that many plans cover under the ACA.
The coverage of at-home STI tests varies, so it’s best to speak with your doctor or insurance company about your options. Some clinics, like Planned Parenthood health centers, provide free or low cost STI tests, depending on your income.
Chlamydia is a serious condition that can have long-term effects on the health of you and your sexual partners. STIs should be treated with seriousness and transparency.
It’s wise to get tested regularly when you’re sexually active to keep you and your partner(s) safe.
Getting tested is both healthy and responsible. An in-office test is a reliable way to learn if you have chlamydia or other STIs. But at-home testing is an accessible and fairly accurate way to get the answers you need.
Protect your health and peace of mind by making a plan to get tested in person or with a private at-home test.
Jillian Goltzman is a freelance journalist covering culture, social impact, wellness, and lifestyle. She’s been published in various outlets, including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Fodor’s Travel Guide. Outside of writing, Jillian is a public speaker who loves discussing the power of social media — something she spends too much time on. She enjoys reading, her houseplants, and cuddling with her corgi. Find her work on her website, blog, Twitter, and Instagram.
Last medically reviewed on May 17, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.