Last modified: August 8, 2019
Richard Honaker M.D.View Full Profile
Only half of men will get any symptoms of the most common STD. Learn the signs, symptoms and treatments of chlamydia in men.
It’s the most common reportable disease and yet half of all men infected show no symptoms. Failure to treat this ‘silent disease’ can cause you to become sterile.
We are talking about chlamydia.
While not often discussed, chlamydia is often spread. It is the most common STD in the United States with more than 1.5 million cases reported in 2017. The actual number is estimated to be quite larger, as many do not experience symptoms or fail to get screened.
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that is spread through sexual activities involving the penis, vagina, mouth and anus.
The bacteria that causes chlamydia, chlamydia trachomatis can be present in semen or vaginal fluid. This bacteria likes to live in mucous membranes and can cause damage to the reproductive system-even without presenting any symptoms.
In men chlamydia usually infects the urethra and the anus depending on the sexual activity that caused the infection. Despite the fact that chlamydia is usually associated with genitals, it can also be found in the mucous membranes of the eyelid and throat.
Learn more about oral chlamydia here.
Failure to treat this sexually transmitted infection can result in damage to the reproductive system-even sterility. Men are more fortunate in that about 50% will experience symptoms. Only about 25% of women get any indication that they may have caught an STI.
How is it Spread?
Chlamydia is spread through oral, anal or penatrative sex with an infected person. It is spread easily through unprotected sex since the majority of cases present no symptoms.
- You can contract it by receiving oral sex on your genitals or anus by a partner with an infected throat
- Chlamydia can be passed through anal sex with an infected partner
- You can become infected by performing oral sex on a partner with infected genitals or anus.
- Chlamydia can be spread by getting vaginal fluid or semen in the eye from an infected partner
- An infected mother can spread chlamydia to her baby during birth
- Sharing sex toys without washing or using a condom can spread the infection
- Genitals coming into contact with infected genitals can spread the infection without any penetration, oral or anal sex
- Despite the fact that chlamydia can be present in the throat chlamydia cannot be spread by kissing.
- Chlamydia cannot be spread through sharing personal items like towels, bedding or toilets
Learn more about chlamydia in pregnancy
Who is at Risk?
According to the CDC, women under the age of 25 are at the highest risk of contracting chlamydia.
While young women may be at the highest risk, anyone who participates in unprotected sex is at risk. Chlamydia is often asymptomatic, so partners may be passing on the STI without ever knowing they were infected. This is why it is so important to get a yearly screening to prevent the spread of this infection.
Research shows that there are some people who are at a higher risk of contracting chlamydia.
Those who are considered high risk include:
- Men and women who have multiple partners
- Those who currently have another sexually transmitted infection
- Men who have sex with men
- Men and women who have sex without a condom
- Those with an infected partner
What does Chlamydia Look Like?
One of the reasons that chlamydia is so common is more often than not, chlamydia doesn’t cause any symptoms. This means if you don’t get an annual screening, you may never experience any symptoms, even though you are infected.
Fortunately for men, they have about a 50% chance of experiencing some symptoms that will let them know they have been infected. Although these symptoms are not pleasant, they can prompt a swift diagnosis.
Chlamydia Symptoms in Men
- Small amounts of clear or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
- Pain or itching around the opening of the penis
- Pain while urinating
- Swelling of the testicles
- Pain, bleeding or itching around the anus
If left untreated, chlamydia can cause an infection of the urethra (the tube which urine is passed through) called nongonococcal urethritis (NGU), an infection of the tube that carries sperm away from the testes called epididymitis or an inflammation of the rectum called proctitis.
For symptoms in women, click here.
Diagnosis is usually simple. Your doctor may ask for a urine sample to check for the bacteria through a urinalysis. Often a swab will be inserted into the tip of the penis to look for chlamydia trachomatis in the urethra. If the chlamydia is suspected in the anus, it would also be swabbed.
For diagnosis in women, click here.
Treatment for Chlamydia in Men
If chlamydia trachomatis is found in your system, a course of oral antibiotics is usually ordered. It may be one dose or several doses depending on what is determined to be the best course of action by your doctor.
It is important to let any current or past partners know of your diagnosis so they are also able to be tested. You can still spread chlamydia while taking your antibiotics. It is important to abstain from sex for seven days after your last treatment. Once you have received treatment, it is important to return to get retested in 90 days to make sure the infection is no longer present.
It is possible to become reinfected with chlamydia. It is important to take all of your antibiotics and to have any possible partners tested and treated to prevent re-infection.
Prevention of Chlamydia in Men
Prevention is key to help eradicate chlamydia because it often presents no symptoms. Many people are infected without knowing it and unknowingly infecting their partners.
There are some steps you can take to better protect yourself:
- Always have anal sex with a condom
- Always have penetrative sex with a condom
- Use a dental dam for oral sex on a vagina or anus
- Use a condom for oral sex on a penis
- Get tested and encourage your partner to get tested for STDs annually or before having sex with a new partner
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