Written on December 23, 2022 by Lori Mulligan, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterial organism, is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause infection among both men and women. There are approximately 2.8 million new infections each year. 50% of men will not display symptoms, so the only way to know if you’ve contracted chlamydia is to get tested .
Chlamydia spreads through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone with the infection. Semen does not have to be present to get or spread the infection . Men who have sex with men are a particularly vulnerable group for transmitting and acquiring chlamydia.
As noted above, at least half of all men with chlamydia don't notice any symptoms. If they do get symptoms, the most common include:
In rare cases, chlamydia spreads to the testicles and epididymis (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles), which causes them to become painful and swollen. This is known as epididymitis or epididymo-orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) .
It can also sometimes cause reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis is a condition that causes redness and swelling (inflammation) in various joints in the body, especially the knees, feet, toes, hips, and ankles. In most cases, it clears up within a few months and causes no long-term problems. Men and women of any age can get it, but it's more common in men and people between the ages of 20 and 40 .
Over time, men are at risk of suffering from infertility due to untreated chlamydia. Untreated, chlamydia can lead to a host of major consequences to your health as well as increased susceptibility to HIV/AIDS. You’re not just jeopardizing your health but that of your partner. Infertility is very high among women who have contracted chlamydia if it goes undetected. So, it is imperative that you get tested whether you show signs or not.
Anytime you have unprotected sex, you need to get tested for STIs. This is especially true for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM, including those with HIV, should receive more frequent chlamydia screening at 3- to 6-month intervals, if risk behaviors persist or if they or their sexual partners have multiple partners .
You have a couple of options for how you test for chlamydia. You can see your provider, who takes a sample of urine or secretions from your penis or rectum and sends it to a lab for testing. Results are usually ready in a day. Avoid sex while waiting for results.
Or you can do the testing in the privacy of your own home with an Everlywell STI kit. Everlywell offers two kits that detect chlamydia:
The good news is that with a healthy dose of a specific type of antibiotics such as azithromycin or doxycycline (and with accessible STD treatment online), chlamydia infections can be cured with relative ease.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to abstain from sexual activity for a period of 7 days, and if you want to avoid being infected again, you’ll have to make sure your partner is also being treated.
It’s advised to retest yourself approximately 3-4 weeks after treatment to ensure you haven’t been reinfected. This is recommended because many people experience a chlamydia reinfection within the first few months after receiving treatment .
Now that you know the serious consequences of chlamydia—the “silent threat,” such as how it can lead to infertility in both men and women, and cause conjunctivitis and arthritis, you can be reminded of the need for prevention.
Total abstinence is obviously the best way to prevent exposure to chlamydia, but perhaps a more realistic method is protected sex with a latex condom every time you have sex. Remember, every time you have unprotected sex, you’re starting over and need to get tested again. Such a pattern can be exhausting and prone to lack of follow up, so be consistent with condom use 100% of the time. You and your partners will appreciate it.
Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and does not have chlamydia is another safe practice.
Regular testing for chlamydia is another key step to take, something you can easily do with an at-home chlamydia test.