Chlamydia Test

Overview

What is a chlamydia test?

This test detects a chlamydia infection, the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. A chlamydia test looks for the bacteria that cause the infection (Chlamydia trachomatis).

For this test, you provide a urine sample. Or your provider takes a swab of fluid from your vagina, anus, throat or eye (depending on where the infection might be). Most often, you get this test in your healthcare provider’s office. But you may be able to do the test on your own using an at-home test kit.

When is a chlamydia test performed?

A chlamydia infection doesn’t usually cause symptoms, so people may not know they have it. Untreated, chlamydia can cause serious health problems and infertility. That’s why providers screen for chlamydia, which means they regularly test certain people who have a higher risk of infection. You should get regular chlamydia screenings if you:

If you previously tested positive for chlamydia and got treated for it, you should get follow-up tests. You usually need a test about a month after treatment and two months after that to make sure the treatment worked.

If you have symptoms of chlamydia infection you may or may not have symptoms of chlamydia. If so, your provider will recommend a test. Symptoms of chlamydia include:

Test Details

How does a chlamydia test work?

The most commonly used type of chlamydia test is called a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT). A NAAT detects the DNA of the bacteria that cause the chlamydia infection. You provide a sample of urine. Or your provider collects a sample of secretions from the vagina or urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body). The lab tests the sample for signs of the bacteria.

Less often, providers use a cell culture to test for chlamydia. Your provider swabs your vagina, urethra or anus to collect a sample of fluid and cells. They send the cells to a lab to test. If bacteria are present, they will grow, which indicates an infection. Providers may choose this type of chlamydia test to detect infections in the anus. Or they may use a cell culture to see how chlamydia treatments are working.

What should I expect before a chlamydia test?

Ask your provider how you should prepare for a chlamydia test. Before the test, you may need to:

  • Avoid urinating for a couple of hours before you get the test.
  • Avoid douching or using creams in the vaginal area.
  • Stop taking certain medications, such as antibiotics.

What should I expect during a chlamydia test?

Your provider gives you a clean cup and asks you to urinate (pee) in it. Follow your provider’s instructions carefully when collecting a urine sample. You’ll need to collect the urine as soon as it starts to come out (first-catch sample).

Instead of a urine sample, your provider might collect a sample of secretions from your genitals or anus. They gather this sample by rubbing a cotton swab on the inside of your vagina, penis or anus. If your provider suspects that you have a chlamydia infection in your eye, they will collect a fluid sample from your eye.

If you’re using an at-home chlamydia test, you will collect the sample yourself. Be sure to follow the instructions on the test kit carefully.

What should I expect after a chlamydia test?

After collecting a sample, your provider sends the sample to a lab. If you’re using an at-home kit, you will mail the sample to a lab. The lab will test the sample to check for bacterial DNA. Your provider will contact you when the results are ready and discuss the next steps.

While you’re waiting for results, it’s very important to avoid having sex. If you do have the infection and you have sex, you can spread it to others.

What are the benefits of a chlamydia test?

A chlamydia test is a reliable way to know if you have the infection, so you can get treatment. Getting treatment for chlamydia protects you from any complications. It also helps you protect your partners from getting the infection.

What are the risks of a chlamydia test?

There aren’t any risks involved with this test. Rarely, the results of the test may be inconclusive or unclear. You may need to give another sample.

Results and Follow-Up

When should I know the results of a chlamydia test?

It usually takes about 24 hours to get results. Although they aren’t used as often, rapid chlamydia tests can produce results in about an hour and a half. If using cell culture it may take about a week to get results.

What does a positive chlamydia test result mean?

If the test is positive, the lab detected the bacteria that cause chlamydia. This means you have a chlamydia infection and will need treatment (antibiotic medications). You will also need to notify your sexual partners, so they can get tested, too.

After finishing treatment, you will need additional follow-up chlamydia tests. You may need another test three weeks after treatment and possibly another test three months later. Ask your provider when you should get a follow-up test.

What does a negative chlamydia test result mean?

If the results are negative, that means the lab did not detect the bacterial DNA. If you have symptoms of chlamydia but received a negative test result, see your provider.

When should I call my doctor about a chlamydia test?

Call your provider if you have any questions about the results of your test. If you received a negative test result, but you have symptoms — or if symptoms don’t go away after treatment, see your provider.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A chlamydia test is essential to limiting the spread of this sexually transmitted infection. It’s especially important to get screened for chlamydia regularly if you’re at a higher risk of this STI. Untreated, the infection can cause health problems — and you can spread it to your partner. While you’re waiting for results and during treatment, avoid having sex. Wait until your provider says it’s safe to have sex again. Be sure to use a condom and practice safe sex to avoid getting an STI.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/28/2022.

References

  • American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). What specimen source/type should I use for screening? (http://chlamydiacoalition.org/screening-specimen/) Accessed 2/1/2022.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chlamydia. (https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/default.htm) Accessed 2/1/2022.
  • Testing.com (formerly Lab Tests Online). Chlamydia Testing. (https://www.testing.com/tests/chlamydia-test/) Accessed 2/1/2022.

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