Chlamydia is an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection—in fact, about one million people are estimated to be infected in the United States alone. It can generally be dealt with through a round of antibiotics from your healthcare provider. Unfortunately, fifty to seventy five percent of those infected don’t actually show symptoms, making it even more likely that the disease is allowed to spread through sexual contact, whether genital, anal, or oral. You (and any sexual partners you’ve had) should see a doctor or health care center immediately if you display any of these symptoms.
Symptoms in Men
More than half (and closer to 90%, according to some experts) of all men who contract chlamydia don’t know they have it, thereby passing it along unwittingly to their sexual partners. Because of the physiological differences between men and women, symptoms do, of course, appear differently. If symptoms are going to show up, they should occur within five days to three weeks of contracting the disease.
Signs that you may have contracted chlamydia and need to get medical help include:
- A painful or burning sensation during urination
- Penile discharge (clear or cloudy in color)
- An itchy or painful urethral opening or head of the penis
- Painful or swollen testicles
- Anal swelling
- Urethral inflammation
When these symptoms are not treated, they can result in serious side effects. The infection can spread into the testicles, causing epididymitis. This condition occurs when the area of the testes where sperm is stored becomes painful. It is also possible for chlamydia to lead to infertility in some men.
Symptoms in Women
As with most STIs, symptoms in women are often more severe than in men. Regardless, over three-quarters of those who have contracted chlamydia may not show symptoms at all. However, those to look out for include:
- Painful urination
- More frequent urges to urinate
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Cervical discharge (often a yellow color)
- Vaginal swelling
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding after sex or between periods
- Abdominal pain
When left untreated, very severe side effects may occur. Chlamydia has the ability to travel, bringing infection into the rest of the female reproductive organs, which leads to a condition referred to as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause scarring, chronic pain, and difficulty becoming pregnant.
A few chlamydial symptoms are the same for both men and women. For those both lucky and unlucky enough to show signs, a fever, diarrhea, and anal itching, discharge, or bleeding may occur. Chlamydia is not only present in the genitals—it can be contracted in both the eyes and the throat as well. It is not uncommon for those with asymptomatic, untreated chlamydial infections to develop reactive arthritis, in which urethral inflammation, arthritis, and conjunctivitis come together to cause considerable discomfort throughout the body. This is most common in young men.
If you notice any of these signs, contact a healthcare provider right away for further testing. The sooner a proper diagnosis and treatment regimen is started, the less intense the symptoms will get, and the less chance there is of serious side effects developing. Even if you don’t notice anything wrong, it’s a good idea to get tested regularly if you or your sexual partner have sexual relations with multiple people.