Diagnosing chlamydia 

The only way to find out if you have chlamydia is to get tested. You can get tested whether or not you have symptoms.

What does the chlamydia test involve?

The tests for chlamydia are simple and painless. Most people can have the test carried out using a urine sample. Some people have a swab test (a small cotton bud). The swab is used to gently wipe the area where you might have chlamydia, to collect some cells. The cells are then tested for infection.

The doctor or nurse will explain which is the best test for you to have. You don’t always have to be examined by the doctor or nurse – this will depend on your situation and where you go to get tested.

People who have had anal or oral sex might have a swab taken from their rectum or throat. This isn’t done on everyone.

If you have symptoms in your eye, such as discharge or inflammation, a swab test might be taken to collect cells from your eyelid.

Tests for women

Chlamydia tests on women can be done with a urine sample or swab test. If a woman has a swab test, it can be taken from the cervix, or inside the lower vagina. Occasionally the doctor or nurse may advise you to have a swab test from the urethra (where urine comes out). Usually you can do a lower vaginal swab yourself, although sometimes a nurse or doctor may do it.

If you have had anal or oral sex you might also be offered a swab test taken from the rectum or throat. This isn’t done on everyone.

Cervical screening tests (smear tests) and routine blood tests do not detect chlamydia. You will need to tell the doctor or nurse if you would also like to be tested for chlamydia at the same time.

Tests for men

Men will usually have a chlamydia test on a urine sample. Occasionally, a swab test may be taken from the urethra (the tube where urine comes out) at the tip of the penis.

If you have had anal or oral sex you might also be offered a swab test taken from the rectum or throat. This isn’t done on everyone.

How soon after sex can I get a chlamydia test?

Don't delay getting tested if you think you might have chlamydia.

You can get a chlamydia test at any time whether or not you have symptoms. You might be advised to repeat the test if it was less than two weeks since you had sex, as sometimes the infection could be in its early stages.

It is recommended that you get tested for chlamydia if:

  • you or your partner think you have any symptoms
  • you've had unprotected sex with a new partner
  • you’ve had a split condom
  • you or your partner have unprotected sex with other people
  • you think you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • a sexual partner tells you they have an STI
  • you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy
  • you have a vaginal examination and your doctor or nurse tells you that the cells of your cervix are inflamed or there is vaginal discharge

Don’t put off having a test for chlamydia – getting diagnosed and treated as soon as possible will reduce the risk of developing any complications of chlamydia. Complications that occur because of long-term chlamydia infection are more difficult to treat.

Where can I get a chlamydia test?

Anyone can get a free confidential chlamydia test at:

  • a sexual health clinic
  • a GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic
  • your GP surgery
  • most contraceptive clinics

People under 25 years old can also get tested by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP). This is often in places such as pharmacies, colleges or young people's services.

You can go to whichever place is the most comfortable and convenient for you.

You can also buy chlamydia testing kits to do at home. The accuracy of these varies. If you use one of these tests, talk to your pharmacist or GP.

Find your nearest sexual health clinic by searching by postcode or town.

What happens at a sexual health clinic?

Some clinics are walk-in, at others you may need to book an appointment. Ring first to find out.

When you attend a clinic, you will be registered as a patient. This is confidential, and your details will not be passed on to your GP unless you request it.

You will be asked some questions about why you have attended the clinic and your sexual history. Questions might include when you last had sex, whether you used condoms and whether you have had an STI before.

You will be offered routine tests for gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis and chlamydia. HIV and syphilis are tested using blood samples. Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are tested using either swab or urine tests. 

Read more information about visiting an STI clinic

How reliable is a chlamydia test?

The accuracy of tests varies, depending on the type of test used. Recommended tests are 90-95% sensitive. This means that they will detect chlamydia in most people who have the infection. Some tests you can buy may be less reliable.

Remember that no test is 100% accurate. There is a small chance that a test may show negative even when you have chlamydia. This is called a false negative test result. It is also possible for a test to be positive even when you do not have chlamydia. This is called a false positive test result. Both of these false tests are very rare but can sometimes explain why you get a different result to your sexual partner.

If you are worried about your test result, talk to your doctor, a sexual health adviser or call the FPA helpline on 0845 122 8690.

Do I have to pay for a test?

If you have a test at an NHS Sexual Health clinic, GUM clinic or with the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) then your tests and any treatment is free.

If you go to your GP, the test is free but you may have to pay a prescription charge for treatment, unless you qualify for free prescriptions.

If you buy a test from a pharmacy, you will have to pay.

Find out more about:

If you're under 25

Young people under 25 years of age can get tested as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP).

The NCSP offers free chlamydia testing in a number of different settings including pharmacies, colleges and youth centres. Find your nearest NCSP chlamydia testing site.

In some areas, young people can order a postal testing kit online as part of the NCSP. Find free online tests for under 25s.

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2013

Next review due: 28/08/2015