Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that often goes unnoticed because of its lack of visible symptoms. It can be passed from one person to the next through vaginal, anal or oral sex and can be found in the cervix, urethra and rectum, and more rarely in the throat and eyes. It can also be passed on from a mother to her child during labour.

Dr Hilary Jones talks more about the symptoms of chlamydia


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What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

The majority of people with chlamydia are unaware that they have it. Around 70% to 80% if women don't experience any symptoms, while 25% to 50% of men don't display visible symptoms of chlamydia. People who do experience symptoms may also not realise straight away that they have this STI, because symptoms can be ambiguous and easily confused with those of another condition. This is why it's best to take a test if you've had unprotected sex with a partner with an unknown sexual history, or if you are unsure whether the symptoms you are experiencing indicate chlamydia.

Moreover, although around half of men and 70-80% of women who have chlamydia do not have any symptoms, should chlamydia symptoms arise they may differ between the genders.

Chlamydia symptoms in men
Pain when passing urine
Painful testicles
Mild irritation at the tip of the penis that disappears after two or three days
White/cloudy, watery discharge from the tip of the penis
Chlamydia symptoms in women
Unusual vaginal discharge
Lower abdominal pain
Bleeding between periods
Pain during sex or when passing urine

This infection can also affect the eyes, leading to chlamydia symptoms such as conjunctivitis.

What complications can chlamydia cause?

Up to 40% of women with chlamydia are likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease if the STI is left untreated. These women are also at risk of developing some form of liver disease. Woman may also start to develop chronic pain in the pelvic area and risk becoming infertile, because the infection can cause a blockage in the fallopian tubes (salpingitis), preventing eggs from being transported from the ovaries to the womb.

Men may start to experience painful swelling of the testicles or scrotum that can affect male fertility. Chlamydia can also cause Reiter's syndrome - also known as reactive arthritis - and can cause joint inflammation affecting the eyes, urethra and joints, although this is rare.

How easy is it to treat?

Although chlamydia can have serious health implications, it is easy to treat and the majority of people can successfully rid themselves of an infection by taking a single course of antibiotics. It's also easier than ever to get yourself tested, even if you aren't displaying chlamydia symptoms.