Chlamydia Diagnosis in Women

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

The identification of chlamydia infection in women may be complicated by the fact that it often produces no symptoms. In fact, most women who have the infection do not have symptoms. Some women do have symptoms and may seek medical attention due to burning and vaginal discharge. If the infection spreads upward in the genital tract, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and result in infertility.

Who should get tested for chlamydia?

The U.S. CDC has recommended that certain women be tested for chlamydia. Testing is recommended each year for all sexually active women age 25 or younger. It is also recommended for older women with risk factors for chlamydial infections (having a new or more than one sex partner). Because chlamydia infection can also cause problems with pregnancy and for the developing baby, testing is recommended for all pregnant women.

Chlamydia diagnostic tests

Testing can be done on a vaginal swab or a urine specimen. Different types of tests may be used to identify the organism. Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) look for the genetic material of the bacteria and are very sensitive. DNA probe tests are less sensitive than NAATs but also are directed at identifying the bacterial DNA. Other tests known as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) use specially labeled antibodies to detect characteristic proteins (antigens) on the surface of the organisms. Finally, bacterial culture of body fluids is another diagnostic test, but cultures take more time than tests designed to detect the bacterial DNA or surface antigens.

Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology


“Chlamydia – CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 11 Feb. 2013.

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