Chlamydia Symptoms

Chlamydia usually does not cause any symptoms, and if it does, it may take days to several weeks after a person is infected. Because of this, screening is recommended and is often the only way to find the infection.

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What is Chlamydia?

Medically reviewed by Amy Cyr, MD
Reviewed on October 11, 2019

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that almost 3 million people become infected with chlamydia every year. Although it affects both sexes, chlamydia can be particularly serious for women. Left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to infertility and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb). Because of this, the CDC recommends that all sexually active women aged 14 – 24 be screened yearly. Women aged 25 and older should be screened if they have new or multiple sexual partners.

Untreated chlamydia can cause complications for men, too. Epididymitis (infection near the testicle) can cause pain, fever, swelling of the testicle, and rarely infertility. Both men and women can develop a type of arthritis associated with inflammation of the eyes and urethra (the tube that drains the bladder).

How is Chlamydia Prevented?

Chlamydia is spread through sexual activity including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. If your partner is male, you can still be infected with chlamydia even if your partner does not ejaculate. Because people carrying the bacteria frequently show no symptoms, the disease can spread quickly and without either partner being aware. That is why safer sex methods are recommended to prevent infection. Using latex condoms and dental dams, reducing your number of partners, being in a mutually monogamous relationship, and even abstinence are all ways to decrease your risk of being exposed to the disease. If you were treated for chlamydia, make sure your partners are, too. If they are not, they can re-infect you. If you know that your partner has chlamydia, avoid sexual contact with them until they are finished with their prescribed antibiotics and their symptoms are gone. You should be tested and treated for chlamydia, too.

What do Chlamydia Symptoms Look Like?

Most of the time, people who have chlamydia don’t have any symptoms. Because of this, people may not know they have it and can unknowingly spread the disease to their sexual partners. Chlamydia can cause damage to the reproductive system even if someone doesn’t have any symptoms. This is why it is important to get tested on a regular basis. When people do have symptoms, they are different for men and women and are listed below. If you have any of the symptoms below, seek medical attention

What Can I Expect When I Get Tested for Chlamydia?

Getting tested for chlamydia involves a simple urine test, which looks for the presence of bacteria. When you are tested, your doctor may suggest you also get tested for gonorrhea at the same time. Gonorrhea is another STD, also caused by bacteria, and it is transferred between people the same way chlamydia is. It is not uncommon for people infected with one to also be infected with the other. If your test shows that you are infected with chlamydia, you should also be tested for other STDs, including gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV.

What Can I Expect From Chlamydia Treatment?

Chlamydia is one of the most easily treated STDs, especially when it is caught early.

Treatment usually involves taking an oral antibiotic, such as azithromycin or doxycycline, prescribed by your provider. Any symptoms you have may improve in as quickly as a few days. Your doctor may choose to treat you with antibiotics before you even get your test results back, as a precautionary measure.

Be sure to take your entire course of antibiotics, even if you feel better. Ending your antibiotic course earlier than your provider recommends could result in reinfection and may cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If you have any concerns about your medication, consult with your provider before you end treatment.

It is important that you avoid sexual contact until you have finished your antibiotics and all symptoms resolve. If you received a single dose of an antibiotic, you should avoid sexual contact for 7 days after you receive the antibiotic and until all symptoms resolve. To avoid getting re-infected, you should wait to have sex until your partner receives adequate treatment, too.

Three months after treatment you should be retested to make sure the treatment worked and that you weren’t reinfected by a partner who wasn’t adequately treated.

Antibiotics will treat the infection but they cannot repair any damage caused by its complications, like PID. It is better to catch chlamydia as early as possible, through regular STD testing, before the infection causes any damage.

It is important to notify your sexual partners if you suspect you have chlamydia or have been diagnosed with it. Any sexual partners you had in the past 60 days should be tested and treated. If you have not been sexually active in the past 60 days, then your last sexual partner should be tested and treated. This is important to prevent re-infection and spread of the disease to others. In some states, partners can be treated without being tested or seen by a provider.

How Will Chlamydia Affect My Pregnancy?

Chlamydia can be spread from a mother to her baby during delivery, causing eye infections and pneumonia in the newborn. It can also increase the chance of an early birth. Because of this, it is recommended that all pregnant women be tested for chlamydia, even if they don’t have symptoms. Mothers can avoid spreading chlamydia to their babies by getting treated. Women who are treated for chlamydia during pregnancy are retested you after finishing treatment, to make sure the infection is gone.

 

Sources: CDCCDC-2US Preventative Task ForceMayo ClinicACOG.org

Symptoms in Men and Women

Chlamydia Symptoms in Women
  • No noticeable symptoms
Chlamydia Symptoms in Men
  • No noticeable symptoms