Chlamydia Symptoms; In Men and Women

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) worldwide. Certain bacteria cause chlamydia, the so-called Chlamydia trachomatis, passed on, especially in unprotected sex. It can affect both women and men, especially those who are sexually active.

The infection is usually easy to treat – if detected early – with the help of antibiotics. Chlamydia infection usually heals without any consequences if there is no permanent damage has occurred.

Women are particularly at risk: For anatomical reasons, they have a significantly increased risk of becoming infected with chlamydia during intercourse. Mostly the cervix is ​​infected with chlamydia first. 

Besides, the frequency of changing sexual partners plays a role: the more, the higher the risk of infection with chlamydia. In a study of girls, about one in ten seventeen-years-old were infected without knowing it.

Chlamydia symptoms

Symptoms of Chlamydia infection (Chlamydiosis) are often not directly recognizable or often absent. It can be assumed that half of the male infected and around 70% of the infected women are symptom-free, which contributes to a rapid spread in the population.

If you experience any symptoms, they usually appear between 1 to 3 weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person. For some people, they don’t develop until months later.

Sometimes the symptoms are gone after a few days. Even if the symptoms go away, you might be still infected and can pass it on.

Chlamydia Symptoms in Women

In women who have become infected, symptoms may appear after about 1 to 3 weeks. Often there are no or only weak complaints. 

Typical symptoms of chlamydia in women:

  • Pungent discoloured/smelling discharge
  • Burning while urinating
  • Itching or burning in the vaginal area
  • Pain, bleeding during intercourse
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Conjunctivitis

If chlamydia infection is left untreated, it can spread to the uterus and cause a severe condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can be associated with infertility or a greater risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Chlamydia Symptoms in Men

Chlamydia symptoms are more noticeable in men than in women. Again, it comes after about 1 to 3 weeks to the onset of the first symptoms.

Typical symptoms of chlamydia in men

  • Slimy / purulent discharge
  • Itching of the penis tip
  • Pain at sexual intercourse
  • Pain, itching or burning while urinating
  • Pain and swelling of the testicles
  • Conjunctivitis

If chlamydia infection is left untreated, the condition can cause swelling in the epididymis and testes. Untreated chlamydia can affect men’s fertility and increases the risk of inflammation of the prostate. 

Infection in Newborn

Suppose a pregnant woman suffers from chlamydia infection. In that case, the bacteria can be transmitted to the child during childbirth, causing conjunctivitis ( eye inflammation ) with discharge, swelling, and redness, with or without pneumonia. Antibiotics can help to treat chlamydia infection in a newborn.

Chlamydia Treatment

Antibiotics can promptly treat chlamydia. Depending on the medication, the therapy lasts for different lengths of time; typically, it will take seven days. 

While on the medication, you should avoid having sexual activity with your partner to prevent spreading the infection. Do not share your medicines for chlamydia to anyone.

Although treatment will cure the infection, it will not repair the permanent damage caused by the disease. If symptoms persist for several days after receiving treatment, you should return to your health care provider for re-evaluation.

In the case of an infection, your partner should also undergo a Chlamydia test – and get a treatment, because, there is a vast chance your partner is affected.

Chlamydia transmission and protection

The transmission paths are mainly from unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys without a condom.

There is no complete protection against chlamydia infection. But doing the following prevention action can significantly reduce the risk:

  • Use condoms for vaginal and anal sex – even if the penis only penetrates the vagina or buttocks for a short time.
  • If you share sex toys with others, you should use a condom before each passing.
  • And even with oral sex, contact with infected mucosa should be avoided. You can also use condoms or dental dams.

The Bottom Line

Chlamydia infection is easy to treat. However, treatment cannot repair the permanent damage caused by infection.

If you think you have chlamydia, talk to your doctor, and get tested as soon as possible. The sooner you start the treatment, the better for your health to prevent any permanent damage from occurring.

About the author – Dr. H.S. Hermanides
Dr. H.S. Hermanides obtained a PhD for her research on HIV in the Caribbean. She is currently working as a specialist in infectious diseases at the Red Cross Hospital in Beverwijk, The Netherlands.

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