Chlamydia is a very tricky infection to spot, because of the fact that a large proportion of people do not have symptoms. 14% of men and 75% of women who are infected do not show any signs of having it. When complications begin to occur, however, those signs can arise very quickly. It’s important to know the signs for both men and women in order to diagnose it sooner rather than later.
1. Unusual genital discharge
This can occur for both men and women. In men, the discharge may be watery and clear, or milky and yellow-white, looking like pus. However, it may not be noticeable unless a full intimate cleaning routine is followed. For women, this could be a different smell, darker colour, or unusual texture compared to normal discharge. Bloody discharge may also be a symptom.
2. Pain during urination
A burning sensation when urinating can occur for both men and women. This can be a sign of other problems, such as a urinary tract infection (or UTI) as well as several other STIs. The best course of action is to have the symptoms investigated immediately, as there may be different types of treatment depending on which of the infections is actually present.
3. Pain or bleeding during sex
The burning sensation can also be present for women when having sex. This is because the infection is causing the pain just in the same way that it does with urination. After sex, women can also experience minor bleeding or spotting, which is sometimes associated with chlamydia. Again, there could be other reasons for this symptom, so it is important to note it in conjunction with other symptoms.
4. Bleeding, pain, or unusual discharge from the rectum
Both men and women can experience this symptom. There is never a situation in which it is normal to feel pain, see bleeding, or experience unusual discharge from the rectum, especially over a prolonged period of time. Vaginal chlamydia can easily spread to the anus, or the infection can be based there in the first place as a result of anal sex. This can be the same for men, as the infection can also spread from the penis to the rectum.
5. Pain, swelling, and itchiness around the penis head and testes
For men, there is an additional sign that something might be wrong. Burning pain or itching around the opening of the penis is a red flag that an infection has taken hold – particularly if it is unpleasant enough to keep you up during the night. One or both testicles or the scrotum may well up or become painful. The pain may feel as though it is around the testicles, but not actually in them. Generally speaking, pain around this area should always be investigated as it can be a sign of a very serious infection or illness.
6. Pain in the lower back, abdomen, and pelvis
Women may experience pain which slowly progresses from the lower back to the abdomen and pelvic region, as well as even to the higher region of the back. This could be an indication that the chlamydia has spread from the cervix and moved up to the fallopian tubes. Later on, the lower back will be sensitive even to gentle pressure. Men can also experience pain in the lower back, pelvis, and abdomen, known as reactive arthritis. Only 1% of men with urethritis will go on to develop reactive arthritis, but it is a key sign. As the chlamydia progresses, this can continue to a feeling of fullness in the abdomen which is caused by infection in the epididymis. This is where the other lower body aches come from.
7. Sore throat
If oral sex is involved in spreading the infection, a sore throat could be a key symptom. This can occur even if the penis is not showing any signs of infection before or after oral sex takes place. One partner may develop symptoms while the other does not.
Chlamydia is not easy to spot from symptoms alone, as so many of them are similar to the symptoms of other infections. Regular testing is the best way to keep track of infections and rule them out.
David Beeshaw is a blogger deeply interested in promoting healthy lifestyle and safe sex through educational articles. He is also a staunch supporter of raTrust, a non-profit organization specialising in STI and HIV prevention.