Summary Points:

  • Chlamydia affects many sexually active individuals in the UK, but most do not show any symptoms.
  • Around 50% of all infected men have mild or no symptoms, therefore unaware they are carriers of the infection themselves.
  • Untreated Chlamydia could cause long term complications, including fertility problems.

The Silent Infection

Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK, accounting for 49% of all STIs diagnosed in 2017. Many infected individuals are unaware of the infection as the symptoms can be very mild or unnoticeable, leading to a wider spread of the infection mainly through unprotected sex.

At least 50% of infected men have no idea they are infected and not aware they require treatment. Partly because the symptoms are similar to other infections, such as thrush or a urinary tract infection. However, like most infections, untreated Chlamydia can have serious complications, e.g. infertility. How can you know if you have Chlamydia?

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Warning Signs and Treatment

The only way to know is to get tested. Routine testing is recommended for those who are sexually active, repeated when you have a new sexual partner or if your partner has other sexual partners, and also if symptoms appear. Common symptoms in men include:

  • pain, itching or burning when urinating;
  • white, cloudy or watery discharge from the tip of the penis;
  • pain or tenderness in and around the testicles.

Less commonly,

  • discomfort and unusual discharge from the rectum (through unprotected anal sex);
  • eye redness, pain and discharge (conjunctivitis, infected semen or vaginal fluid contact with the eyes);
  • throat infection (through unprotected oral sex).

Symptoms usually appear between one and three weeks after sexual intercourse with an infected partner, but could sometimes take months. The duration varies from lasting only a few days to a longer lasting discomfort. However, the disappearance of symptoms does not necessarily mean you are “cured”.

Chlamydia screening is discreet and can be accessed through GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, pharmacies, and online. The simple and pain-free test involves taking a swab or a urine sample, or both, depending on the areas affected.

If you test positive, your current and recent sexual partners should be informed and should be tested too, even if asymptomatic. Some service providers may contact them on your behalf, with your permission, in confidence – your name will not be mentioned.

If treatment is necessary, you will be prescribed a short course of antibiotic, most likely doxycycline, unless a patient is allergic or intolerant to it. You should finish the course of antibiotic, ensuring the infection is cleared, and also to prevent the infection from developing resistance towards the antibiotic, making the infection harder to treat.

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Will condoms protect me?

Using condoms lowers your risk of catching and passing Chlamydia on. It is highly effective at preventing Chlamydia when used correctly during sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal and oral) and to cover shared sex toys. Unprotected sex is not recommended until you and your partner have been tested negative for the infection.

Better safe than sorry

During treatment and for seven days afterwards, sex is not recommended (not even with a condom) to prevent re-infecting yourself or passing it on. In some cases you may be asked to repeat the test sooner, if you fail to finish the treatment properly, had sex before you or your partner finish the treatment, are considered more susceptible to the infection, if your symptoms persist or reappear.

As we know, untreated male Chlamydia can cause serious complications, from affecting sperm production and mobility to scarring of the reproductive tracts, leading to permanent infertility. So to be safe, make sure you get tested at the soonest possibility.

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