Testing.com is fully supported by readers. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. You can read more about how we make money here.

  • Also Known As:
  • Chlamydia Nucleic Acid Amplification Test
  • Chlamydia NAAT Test
  • Chlamydia/GC STD Panel
  • Chlamydia Culture
  • Formal Name:
  • Chlamydia trachomatis Testing
Medically Reviewed by Expert Board

This page was fact checked by our expert Medical Review Board for accuracy and objectivity. Read more about our editorial policy and review process.

.
This article was last modified on
Learn more about...
  • Discreet Packaging

    Free next day shipping and confidential results in 2-5 days

  • Trustworthy Medical Support

    Real-time support services from our national network of physicians and nurses

  • Health Records You Control

    Privacy at your fingertips, integrated with your choice of apps and wearables

Test Quick Guide

Chlamydia is an infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. The most common bacterial STD in the United States, chlamydia is usually spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Untreated chlamydia infections can lead to serious health issues including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

Chlamydia testing is used to screen for chlamydia and diagnose this bacterial infection. Samples used for chlamydia testing include urine and swabs of fluid from the vagina, cervix, throat, eyes, or rectum. Depending on the site of the potential infection, samples used for testing may be collected by the patient or their medical provider.

About the Test

Purpose of the test

The purpose of testing for chlamydia is to determine if a person has a chlamydia infection.

Because most people with chlamydia don’t experience symptoms, doctors rely on screening tests to detect the majority of infections. Screening tests attempt to diagnose health conditions before a person experiences symptoms. While doctors may screen for chlamydia on its own, STD screening often involves testing for several STDs at once.

When symptoms associated with chlamydia are present, diagnostic testing is used to confirm or rule out chlamydia as the cause of a person’s symptoms. Because chlamydia can cause similar symptoms to gonorrhea, another common STD, patients with symptoms of chlamydia are commonly assessed for gonorrhea simultaneously.

What does the test measure?

Chlamydia testing looks for evidence of infection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. There are several types of tests that can be used to detect chlamydia, including molecular testing, also called Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), and cell culture.

NAAT is the preferred method for detecting a chlamydia infection. This type of test detects the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of Chlamydia trachomatis. It can be performed using a urine sample or swab of fluid taken from a site of potential infection such as the urethra, vagina, rectum, or eye.

Traditionally, NAAT takes a day or more to provide results, but there have also been rapid chlamydia tests developed using NAAT methods. Rapid chlamydia tests can often provide a result within 30 to 90 minutes. Rapid chlamydia tests are typically performed on urine samples or swabs of fluid taken from the vagina or cervix.

Although much less commonly used, cell cultures can help diagnose a chlamydia infection. Chlamydia cell cultures may be used in children with a suspected chlamydia infection, when evaluating potential infections in the anus or rectum, and when initial treatment for chlamydia is unsuccessful. In these cases of treatment failure, doctors may use a cell culture to help understand which treatments may be most effective for an individual’s infection.

Other types of chlamydia tests are available but are rarely used given the accuracy and availability of NAAT.

When should I get chlamydia testing?

As most people infected with chlamydia do not experience symptoms, doctors rely on screening to detect most cases of chlamydia. Screening guidelines vary based on many factors, including a person’s anatomy, health, and sexual practices. Regular screening for chlamydia is recommended for several groups:

  • Women and anyone with a vagina: Those who are sexually active and under the age of 25 should be tested for chlamydia annually, while those aged 25 and older should be screened regularly only if they are at an increased risk of contracting chlamydia.
  • Pregnant people: Chlamydia testing is recommended for all pregnant people under age 25 and for those 25 and over with an increased risk of this infection. In addition to initial testing, experts recommend retesting during the third trimester for people with an elevated risk of infection. For pregnant patients diagnosed with chlamydia, follow-up testing is advised four weeks after completing treatment and again within three months.
  • Men and anyone with a penis: Those who are gay, bisexual, or have sex with other people with a penis should be tested at least annually. Testing may be recommended every three to six months if patients are at an increased risk of contracting chlamydia. Regular screening is not recommended for other people with a penis unless they are at an increased risk of infection.
  • People diagnosed with HIV: Sexually active people diagnosed with HIV should be screened for chlamydia during their initial HIV evaluation, then at least annually depending on their risk and local infection rates.

Certain factors increase the risk of contracting chlamydia and may affect how often a person should be screened. Risk factors include having:

  • Sex with a new partner
  • More than one sexual partner or a partner who has sex with mutiple people
  • A sex partner diagnosed with an STD

Testing for chlamydia is more frequently conducted in asymptomatic people in settings where infection rates are high, which often includes correctional facilities, adolescent health clinics, the military, and sexual health clinics.

Diagnostic chlamydia testing is recommended for anyone with signs or symptoms of this infection. When symptoms do occur, they may not appear until a few weeks after exposure. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia can vary based on the site of infection but may include:

  • Burning during urination
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum
  • Vaginal bleeding after sex or pain during intercourse
  • Pain, tenderness, or swelling in the testicles or scrotum
  • Rectal pain

For patients diagnosed with chlamydia, retesting for this infection is often performed after treatment is complete. Patients may be tested within three weeks of completing treatment to ensure that treatment was successful or around three months after treatment has ended to see if they have been reinfected with chlamydia.

Finding a Chlamydia Test

How to get tested

Chlamydia testing is usually ordered by a doctor. In people without symptoms, a doctor can evaluate their risk and suggest an appropriate screening schedule. If a patient has symptoms of this infection, a doctor will order testing to diagnose or rule out chlamydia.

Testing for chlamydia can be conducted at a hospital, doctor’s office, health clinic, or community health program.

Can I take the test at home?

Tests are available to detect chlamydia at home. Most at-home chlamydia tests are self-collection kits, which allow you to obtain a swab or sample of urine at home and return it to a laboratory by mail. If an at-home chlamydia test returns positive results, a doctor may suggest confirmation testing with a laboratory-based method.

How much does the test cost?

The cost of chlamydia testing varies based on many factors. Chlamydia testing may be paid for by health insurance when ordered by a doctor. Because health plans vary, it’s important for patients to discuss the cost of testing, including any copays or deductibles, with their health plan.

For patients without health insurance coverage, the cost of testing may include the cost of the office visit and sample collection as well as technician fees. Testing may also be available for free or at low cost through community-based organizations and local health departments.

Order your at-home health test online

A convenient, affordable, and discreet way of getting accurate test results quickly.

  • Discreet Packaging

    Free next day shipping and confidential results in 2-5 days

  • Trustworthy Medical Support

    Real-time support services from our national network of physicians and nurses

  • Health Records You Control

    Privacy at your fingertips, integrated with your choice of apps and wearables

Taking a Chlamydia Test

Chlamydia testing is most often performed using a sample of urine or a swab of fluid collected from the site of potential infection. Both urine and genital swab samples may be collected by the patient or their medical professional.

Before the test

Before taking a chlamydia test, patients should discuss any necessary preparations with their doctor or the health provider conducting the test. Depending on the type of sample required, patients may be instructed to not douche or use vaginal creams for 24 hours before the test, avoid taking antibiotics the day before the test, or not urinate for 2 hours prior to testing.

During the test

If a swab sample is needed, a medical professional will use a swab or brush to collect fluid from the site of suspected infection, most often the vagina or urethra. Patients may experience some discomfort while the swab is being collected, but the process is typically very brief. Patients may also be instructed by their doctor on how to self-collect swab samples.

To collect a urine sample, patients are instructed to urinate into a sterile cup provided by the health care provider. First-catch urine samples are used to test for chlamydia, which means that patients should avoid urinating within two hours prior to the test and attempt to collect the first part of their urine stream. Collecting a urine sample usually takes a few minutes.

After the test

Because chlamydia can be transmitted to other people, it is important to avoid having sex until negative test results are received. Patients with positive test results should talk with their doctor about steps to avoid spreading the infection and reduce the risk of future reinfection. No other precautions or restrictions are required after taking a chlamydia test.

Chlamydia Test Results

Receiving test results

The results of a chlamydia test are frequently available within 24 hours after the test sample is collected. For rapid chlamydia testing, results can be returned within 30 to 90 minutes. Chlamydia cell cultures take several additional days because the bacteria has to be grown in the laboratory.

Patients may receive their chlamydia test results during a follow-up appointment with the health care provider who performed the test, over the phone, or through an electronic medical record.

Interpreting test results

Chlamydia test results are typically reported as positive or negative, indicating whether there was evidence of an infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.

A positive test indicates that a patient has a current chlamydia infection that requires treatment with antibiotics. After receiving a positive test result, the patient’s sexual partners should also be tested for chlamydia.

A negative chlamydia test means that there is no evidence of a chlamydia infection at the time the test sample was collected.

Are test results accurate?

Although chlamydia testing is an important method of finding and treating this common STD, test results could be impacted by the following:

  • The use of antibiotics within several days before testing
  • Urinating within one hour of sample collection
  • Vaginal douching within 24 hours of testing
  • Improper sample collection
  • Contamination of rectal samples with fecal matter

Do I need follow-up tests?

The choice of whether or not follow-up testing is necessary depends on the needs of the patient.

If a patient tests negative for chlamydia despite having signs of the conditions, a doctor may recommend follow-up testing to determine the cause of their symptoms. Patients with negative chlamydia test results should also discuss how often STD screening tests are necessary in the future.

Positive test results require follow-up retesting for chlamydia after a certain period of time :

  • Most patients are retested about three months after completing treatment. This method of follow-up can help make sure a patient has not been reinfected.
  • Some patients have follow-up testing three weeks after treatment to confirm that the bacteria has been eliminated. This testing is not necessary for all patients but is recommended for pregnant people treated for chlamydia.

The choice of follow-up testing is based upon a patient’s specific situation, and a doctor can best explain the benefits and downsides of each approach.

Questions for your doctor about test results

It can be helpful to bring questions to your doctor to learn more about your chlamydia test results. Helpful questions may include:

  • What is my chlamydia test result?
  • Did my test check for any other STDs?
  • Do I need any treatment based on my results?
  • How can I talk to my sexual partners about chlamydia?
  • When should I be tested for STDs and how often?

Sources

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Chlamydia. Updated June 8, 2020. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001345.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia: CDC fact sheet. Updated January 23, 2014. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for the laboratory-based detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae: 2014. Updated March 31, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/laboratory/2014labrec/default.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Updated March 30, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/msm.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia: CDC fact sheet (detailed). Updated July 22, 2021. Accessed September 5, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia-detailed.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transgender and gender diverse persons. Updated July 22, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/trans.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydial infection. Updated July 22, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/chlamydia.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening recommendations and considerations referenced in treatment guidelines and original sources. Updated August 12, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/screening-recommendations.htm

Hammerschlag MR. Chlamydial infections. Merck Manual Consumer Edition. Updated May 2021. Accessed September 13, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/infections/chlamydial-infections-and-mycoplasmas/chlamydial-infections

Hammerschlag MR. Chlamydial infections. Merck Manuals Professional Edition. Updated May 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/chlamydia-and-mycoplasmas/chlamydia

Hsu K. Epidemiology of Chlamydia trachomatis infections. In: Marrazzo J, ed. UpToDate. Updated October 10, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/epidemiology-of-chlamydia-trachomatis-infections

Hsu K. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Chlamydia trachomatis infections. In: Marrazzo J, ed. UpToDate. Updated October 21, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-chlamydia-trachomatis-infections

Hsu K. Patient education: Chlamydia (beyond the basics). In: Marrazzo J, ed. UpToDate. Updated April 14, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/chlamydia-beyond-the-basics

Hsu K. Treatment of Chlamydia trachomatis infection. In: Marrazzo J, ed. UpToDate. Updated July 2, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-chlamydia-trachomatis-infection

MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Chlamydia test. Updated July 30, 2020. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/chlamydia-test/

Mohseni M, Sung S, Takov V. Chlamydia. In: StatPearls. Updated August 11, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537286/

Odom BD, Santucci RA. Chlamydia trachomatis culture. In: Staros EB, ed. Medscape. Updated November 21, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2119210-overview

US Department of Health and Human Services. Chlamydia. Updated April 1, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/chlamydia

US Department of Health and Human Services. Get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Updated June 10, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/health-conditions/hiv-and-other-stds/get-tested-chlamydia-and-gonorrhea

US Preventive Services Task Force. Chlamydia and gonorrhea: Screening. Published September 22, 2014. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/document/RecommendationStatementFinal/chlamydia-and-gonorrhea-screening

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

This form enables patients to ask specific questions about lab tests. Your questions will be answered by a laboratory scientist as part of a voluntary service provided by one of our partners, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. Please allow 2-3 business days for an email response from one of the volunteers on the Consumer Information Response Team.

Send Us Your Question