Signs of Chlamydia

One of the main problems with diagnosing the Chlamydia infection is the fact that it often doesn’t cause any symptoms and when symptoms do occur, the infection is usually quite advanced. However, there are some signs that you may have the Chlamydia infection if you know what to look out for.

New relationships should trigger testing

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Some of the signs will be related to the infection itself. You could call these symptoms. Others will be about behaviour that should set alarm bells ringing and get you to the clinic for a test to check yourself out.

Physical signs

There are several ways in which you can pick up the Chlamydia bacteria from a sexual partner. Some of these are more likely to show physical signs of infection than others.

The symptoms can be a bit of a puzzle as they differ for everyone

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For women who have had penetrative sex, the chances are that the infection will take up residence in one or more of a number of places. If the infection has settled in the vagina, you may notice that you’re producing vaginal discharge (15 A guide to discharge) that is different to what you would normally expect. This will be slightly different from person to person but may mean a cloudy or milky discharge rather than clear.

Due to the close proximity between the genitals and the urinary tract in women, there is a chance that the Chlamydia infection may get into the urethra or bladder. This will sometimes cause symptoms that include pain when peeing and lower abdominal pain. This does not necessarily mean that the infection is caused by Chlamydia, however. Bladder infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are relatively common in women and can be caused by a range of different bacteria. The only way to be sure is to get a test.

Both vaginal and urinary tract infection with Chlamydia can lead to lower abdominal pain. A bladder infection can cause inflammation that causes aching and discomfort that can be accompanied by pain on passing urine. If left undiagnosed and untreated, Chlamydia in the vagina, cervix and uterus can develop into Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which can cause significant abdominal pain. Any kind of lower abdominal pain that persists should be checked out with the doctor to rule out anything serious and get appropriate treatment.

For men, the physical signs of Chlamydia are often centred on the penis. As the route through which both urine and semen leaves the body, it is often the main place where symptoms of the infection show up. As with women, tell-tale signs can include pain when urinating and an ache in the lower part of the abdomen. There may also be a discharge from the tip of the penis that, like the vaginal discharge in women, is slightly cloudy or milky. Whereas women are quite used to discharge from the vagina, discharge from the penis is quite unusual and is usually an indicator that something isn’t right.

There is a strong chance that Chlamydia can be passed on between partners of any gender through oral sex (11 Chlamydia from oral) as the Chlamydia bacteria can colonise and live in the throat. From the throat, the bacteria can cause a number of problems including throat infections, sinus infections and eye infections. One sign that the infections may be caused by Chlamydia is if they don’t clear up with the usual treatments of antibiotics or eye drops. Persistent eye infections are a particular sign as Chlamydial conjunctivitis is particularly difficult to treat if the type of bacteria hasn’t been identified. If you are having recurrent infections in your eyes and regular eye drops such as chloramphenicol don’t clear them up, it would make sense to be tested.

Not so physical

There are some signs that you might be at risk of Chlamydia even if you’re not showing physical symptoms of the infection that should raise your degree of alertness and make you consider getting a test.

If an ex is diagnosed, get tested

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If you’ve had a sexual experience with a partner without protection, there is a chance that you may have been exposed to the Chlamydia infection (Hub page). This doesn’t necessarily have to be penetrative sex. As mentioned above, oral sex can leave you at risk of Chlamydia in the throat that can develop into infections in the throat, sinuses and eyes. However, it can take a while for this to develop so if there’s any chance that you might have been exposed, it pays to get a test.

Similarly, if you were using protection and it failed, that can leave you vulnerable to the Chlamydia infection. Condoms sometimes break, and when they do you can be at risk of more than an unwanted pregnancy. At any time when you come into contact with the bodily fluids from sex, there is a chance that you can pick up Chlamydia.

Another strong sign that you may have the infection is if a current or past partner has been tested and diagnosed with Chlamydia. One of the reasons why partner notification is such a core part of the work of sexual health and genitourinary medicine clinics is because of the high likelihood of infection of other partners following diagnosis. If you’ve recently had sex with someone who’s tested positive for Chlamydia, the chances are you will be prescribed medication for the infection even before your test results are returned. The sooner Chlamydia is treated, the better the outcome is likely to be so makes sense to start treatment as early as you can.

Conclusion

There are physical signs that you may have contracted the Chlamydia infection. These can however mean that you’ve been carrying the bacteria for some time as the symptoms (3 Symptoms of Chlamydia) often don’t develop for weeks, months or even years after being exposed to the infection. If you notice any of these it’s important to be tested as soon as possible to make sure that you’re safe. The other signs of potential infection are engaging in unprotected sex or finding that your partner or previous partner has tested positive for Chlamydia. Particularly in the latter case, starting on antibiotics before your test results are even back from the laboratory can help protect you from the damaging effects of an advanced Chlamydia infection.

Image Credits: Sean McGrath, Nicer than air and Jinterwas