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Do Men and Women Have Different Chlamydia Symptoms?

When infected with chlamydia, men and women may experience different symptoms. Chlamydia is known as one of the most commonly transmitted sexual diseases. The infection can spread rapidly because many people who are infected do not show symptoms for a while, and may unknowingly pass it to partners. Women are less likely to experience symptoms, and 75% of them will have had no symptoms by the time they receive a diagnosis. About 50% of men who are infected will not show symptoms, either.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia in Women?

It is quite possible to have no symptoms and be infected with Chlamydia, but when symptoms do present themselves, they are likely to occur one to three weeks after contracting the infection. Women may experience such symptoms as:

  • Vaginal discharge that looks or smells abnormal: Discharge when infected can have a different color than your normal discharge. It may or may not be accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor.
  • Irregular bleeding: Bleeding or spotting between periods can be a sign of infection.
  • Pain during your period: You may experience more intensity in cramps or other pain when you are menstruating.
  • Fever: A common sign of infection is a fever with abdominal pain.
  • Pain during intercourse: You may experience pain during intercourse or immediately following when infected.
  • Burning or itching: You might experience burning or itching in or around the vagina.
  • Pain during urination: You may experience pain or burning when you urinate.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia in Men?

Some of the symptoms that men may experience when infected by chlamydia may be similar to women’s, while others may differ. Some common symptoms that men may experience include:

  • Discharge: You may experience clear or cloudy discharge from the end of your penis.
  • Pain and swelling: You may experience swelling or pain in your testicles.
  • Pain when urinating: You may also experience painful or difficult urination.
  • Burning or itching: Burning or itching sensations around your penis may be a sign of infection.
  • Irritation: You may feel skin irritation on the tip of your penis.

Other Symptoms of Chlamydia

Chlamydia can also affect other parts of the body, such as the rectum and the eyes. If you have a chlamydia infection in the rectum, you may experience:

  • Rectal pain.
  • Rectal discharge.
  • Rectal bleeding.

If you are affected by chlamydia conjunctivitis, you might experience:

  • Itchy and watery eyes.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Swollen or irritated eyelids.
  • Eye discharge.
  • Red eyes.

How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Chlamydia?

Typically, the diagnosis for suspected chlamydia involves a discussion of the symptoms and your health history, as well as your possible risk for recent exposure. The healthcare provider will then swab a man’s urethra or swab around a woman’s cervix. The swab will be sent to a laboratory to determine if there is infection and bacteria present and the specific strain is there is one. The healthcare provider may also perform a urine test to check for the presence of bacteria, as well.

You can also test yourself in the privacy of your own home with a Nurx STI test kit. Simply request your test from Nurx, which includes a fee to cover the test kit, shipping, and your medical consultation. Once you receive your testing kit, simply collect the samples and return them in the prepaid packaging. One of our experienced healthcare providers will contact you within 7 business days of receiving your sample to discuss the results and answer any questions you may have.

How Is Chlamydia Treated?

If you have tested positive for chlamydia, your healthcare provider is likely to prescribe a round of antibiotics. The care provider will choose the antibiotics based on the type of bacteria that was found. Your healthcare provider may also recommend that any partners have the same treatment regimen so that you can lower your risk of reinfection.

After starting the antibiotic treatment, you should start seeing relief from the symptoms, if you had any, in a week or two.  However, it may take a full four weeks for the infection to be cleared. Always finish your antibiotics, even if the symptoms subside.

Once you have completed your antibiotic treatment, it is recommended that you follow up with your healthcare provider after three months to make sure that the infection is gone. Men can use a condom to prevent reinfection until they and their partners have been treated.

Women who have more severe infections may require a brief hospital stay so that they can be treated with intravenous antibiotics and pain medication to clear up the infection.

What Can Happen if Women Don’t Seek Treatment for Chlamydia?

Untreated chlamydia can result in more severe health concerns if not treated in a timely manner. For women, the most common complication of untreated chlamydia is pelvic inflammatory disease, which can eventually damage the fallopian tubes, making it more difficult to conceive. Other possible complications include:

  • A higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
  • A higher chance of premature birth.
  • The risk of passing the infection to a newborn if pregnant.

What Can Happen if Men Don’t Seek Treatment for Chlamydia?

Men may also face more serious health risks if they do not treat a chlamydia infection as soon as possible. Men may develop a condition called nongonococcal urethritis, an infection that affects the urethra. They may also develop other conditions, such as:

  • An infection of the epididymis – the tube that carries sperm.
  • Inflammation of the rectum, which is referred to as proctitis.

Ways That You Can Lower Your Risk of Contracting Chlamydia

While chlamydia infections are common and treatable, there are ways to lower your risk of contracting it or reduce the incidence of complications. Some precautions to take include:

  • Using condoms when you have sexual intercourse.
  • Do not share towels, makeup, or other items that can come in contact with your eyes.
  • Have regular STI testing, and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you suspect an infection.

Routine testing for STIs is important as it is possible to contract chlamydia without showing any symptoms. Discuss with your healthcare provider your specific risks and always seek help if you have symptoms such as burning, itching, unusual discharge, rashes, or pain. The earlier you treat the infection, the less risk you will have of developing potential complications.

Further Reading

Chlamydia in men: Everything you need to know, Medical News Today, January 2019

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