Chlamydia Symptoms & Causes
Chlamydia Trachomatis is one of the most common Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the UK, accounting for 46.1% of all STIs diagnosed. It is an easily treatable infection and early detection can prevent further complications to you and your partner(s).
We provide Chlamydia test results in 3 hours in our Birmingham clinic (with option of throat/rectal swabs).
What are the symptoms of Chlamydia in men?
- Discomfort in water pipe
- Irritation in water pipe
- Painful urination
- Pain in testicles
- Pus-like discharge from urethra
- “Wetness” at penile tip
- Less commonly, red spots on the glans (head) of penis (Balanitis)
Homosexual Men with Chlamydia may also experience:
- Irritation in back passage
- Mucoid or slimy or blood-stained discharge from the back passage
What are the symptoms of Chlamydia in women?
- Abnormal discharge
- Change in discharge
- Bleeding after sexual contact (post-coital bleeding)
- Bleeding between periods (inter-menstrual bleeding)
- Abdominal pain
- Pain on having sexual intercourse
- Painful urination
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Sore throat (with throat infection)
- Mucoid or slimy or blood-stained discharge from the back passage (with rectal infection)
The correct diagnosis and treatment of the underlying infection is the best way to manage bacterial vaginosis in such patients. If the underlying cause is not addressed, symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are very likely to return.
Can I get Chlamydia in the throat?
Although Chlamydia is primarily a genital infection, it can infect other mucous membranes in the body including the back of throat (pharyngitis). Throat infection with chlamydia is common in both heterosexual women and gay men, and is an important source of onward transmission as many people think that oral sex is low-risk. This is less common in heterosexual men.
Most patients with throat infection due to chlamydia will have no symptoms, but those who do may complain of something as non-specific as “not feeling right in the throat” to discomfort and pain in the throat.
Can I get Chlamydia in the rectum?
Chlamydia infection in the back passage can be seen in those who have receptive anal sex. However sometimes chlamydia infection can be present in the back passage in the women who have not had any anal sex. This can be due to vaginal discharge infected with chlamydia, contaminating the anal area.
Most patients with anal or rectal chlamydia may have no symptoms or some irritation or itching in the back passage. Mucoid or slimy or blood-stained discharge from the back passage is seen in those with more severe infection.
LGV (Lymphogranuloma venereum) is a special type of chlamydia infection of the back passage. It is seenly more commonly in gay men, especially those who are HIV positive.
Can I get Chlamydia in the eye?
Another mucosal membrane that Chlamydia can infect is the conjunctiva of the eyes. This can be as a result of inoculation from a contaminated finger or from infected semen and/or vaginal fluid.
Every now and then we see patients who have had some redness, grittiness, stickiness or scanty discharge from the eyes for a few weeks which has not responded to commonly used eye drops. Swabs taken from the eyes confirm a diagnosis of Chlamydia in some of these patients. It is easy to run tests for chlamydia from the eyes, and get the appropriate antibiotics to cure the infection.
Sometimes newborn babies get chlamydia infection in the eyes at the time of birth when passing through the maternal vaginal canal, and this typically appears as redness, stickiness or discharge from one or both eyes. This usually presents from 5-14 days after birth.
Fortunately, this condition can be treated with a course of antibiotics and if seen early enough, further complications can be avoided. This may include:
- Difficulty in getting pregnant (which may progress to infertility)
- Persistent pelvic pain
- Greater risk of ectopic pregnancy (i.e. when a fertilised egg is implanted outside of the womb)
Passing Chlamydia onto your child
If you leave Chlamydia untreated whilst pregnant, then there is a chance of passing it onto your child. This may result in your child developing conjunctivitis (an eye infection) and/or pneumonia (lung infection). The risk of a premature birth also increases (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and the possibility of your child being born underweight.
If you are pregnant and/or think you have Chlamydia, please see your sexual health clinician without any delay. Chlamydia treatment is simple and complications can be avoided.
In Men & Women: SARA (Sexually Acquired Reactive Arthritis)
Chlamydia is the most common cause of SARA, which may develop within the first few weeks after getting Chlamydia. Whilst this can affect women, it is much more common in men.
SARA may cause inflammation of your joints, eyes and/or urethra (from where urine passes out of the body). There is no cure for SARA, but fortunately, most individuals get better within a few months.
Epididymitis or Epididymo-orchitis
Chlamydia can cause inflammation of the testicles and epididymis (the tubes carrying sperm from the testicles). This can be very painful but is easily treatable with antibiotics.
If Chlamydia is further left untreated at this stage, then there is a risk of becoming infertile.
How do I get Chlamydia?
- Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
- Sharing of unclean sex toys (with/without a condom)
- Very close contact with partners’ genitals
- Infected semen and/or vaginal fluid in the eye
- During childbirth from infected mother
You CANNOT get Chlamydia from the following:
- Close contact (e.g. kissing and/or hugging)
- Sharing showers, towels, swimming pools
- Toilet seats
What can increase my chances of getting Chlamydia?
- If you have had Chlamydia before
- If you have a greater number of sexual partners
How can I prevent getting Chlamydia?
- Have protected vaginal, oral and anal sex
- Use a condom, femidom and/or dental dam with a new partner
- Only use sex toys that you know are clean
- You and your new partner get tested before having sex
- Don’t have sex with your partner if they were treated for Chlamydia less than 7 days ago
Page reviewed by Dr. Manoj Malu (Clinical Director)
Last reviewed date: 3 March 2020
Next review due: 3 March 2023
Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.
References & Further Reading
- NHS: Chlamydia – Symptoms
- Clinical Microbiology and Infection: Review Genital Chlamydia trachomatis infections
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Chlamydia trachomatis infection and pregnancy outcome
- Sexually Transmitted Infections: Signs and symptoms of urethritis and cervicitis among women with or without Mycoplasma genitalium or Chlamydia trachomatis infection
- Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology: Multiple co‐infections (Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, human herpes virus‐6) in blood of chronic fatigue syndrome patients: association with signs and symptoms
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Disparities in Chlamydia Testing Among Young Women With Sexually Transmitted Infection Symptoms
- Acta Dermato-venereologica: Isolation of Chlamydia trachomatis from the urethra and from prostatic fluid in men with signs and symptoms of acute urethritis.
- GG&C Paediatric Guidelines: Eye infections in the neonate: Ophthalmia Neonatorum and the management of systemic Gonococcal and Chlamydial infections
- NICE: Chlamydia – uncomplicated genital
- Cepheid: Chlamydia & Gonorrhea (CT/NG) Molecular Test – Xpert CT/NG
- NHS: Chlamydia
- Mayo Clinic: Chlamydia trachomatis – Diagnosis and treatment
- NHS: Chlamydia – Treatment
- NICE: Chlamydia – uncomplicated genital
- Avert: Chlamydia symptoms & treatment