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Chlamydia vs. UTI: what's the difference?

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on January 21, 2021. 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.


Urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia share some similarities in terms of symptoms, but knowing the difference between the two can help you take the right steps if you are experiencing symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about chlamydia vs. UTIs below (and consider taking the at-home chlamydia test to check for chlamydia infection).

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It can easily travel through sexual fluids, including semen, pre-cum, and vaginal fluids—and it can infect any part of the genitals, anus, throat, and even the eyes.

Although the infection can be easily treated with a round of antibiotics, the chlamydia bacteria usually do not present any symptoms until the infection has progressed to more advanced stages. Also note that chlamydia can come back after treatment if you become infected again.

  • Some common symptoms that you may notice include:
  • Pain when urinating or having sex
  • Genital discharge
  • Testicular pain
  • Bleeding between periods or after sex

If you are experiencing symptoms like these, consider taking an at-home chlamydia test to check for infection.

It’s important that you do not let a chlamydia infection go untreated or you may risk further, more serious health complications. For example, the long-term effects of chlamydia may include serious issues within the reproductive system that can contribute to infertility.

Related: How long does a chlamydia test take?

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, refers to a bacterial infection in any part of your urinary system, including the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Most UTIs affect the lower urinary tract, comprising the urethra and bladder. UTIs can become more severe as they reach the kidneys.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:

  • A frequent, persistent urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation or pain when urinating
  • Frequently passing small amounts of urine
  • Urine appearing cloudy, red, bright pink, or cola-colored (often a sign of blood in the urine)
  • Urine that has a strong smell
  • Pelvic pain

Differentiating between chlamydia vs. UTIs

The symptoms

One of the most prominent aspects about chlamydia and UTIs share is their urinary symptoms. Both a chlamydial infection and urinary tract infections can contribute to pain or burning when urinating, along with frequent or otherwise painful urination. Urinary tract infections and chlamydia can also cause pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic region.

The main symptom that chlamydia does not share with UTIs is penile or vaginal discharge. A chlamydial infection can cause a yellowish, strong-smelling vaginal discharge or a watery, milky penile discharge. Urinary tract infections are not known to cause any sort of abnormal genital discharge.

The causes

Although chlamydia and urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, the specific bacteria that cause the two infections are different. Chlamydia is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, while UTIs are caused by bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract (usually E. coli).

Furthermore, the methods of transmission are different. Chlamydia is strictly transmitted via sexual contact. Urinary tract infections are not contagious and cannot be transmitted through sex.

That being said, sexual intercourse can potentially increase the risk of a urinary tract infection, often by pushing bacteria in the urethra further up into the bladder. Sex can also cause urine to get trapped for longer in the bladder or urethra, which allows bacteria to grow. Diaphragms and other contraceptives can also put extra pressure on the urinary tract and trap bacteria. However, if your partner has a UTI, they cannot give you a UTI via sex.

Testing for chlamydia

The most challenging part about diagnosing chlamydia is that it often does not present any symptoms. The best way to know for sure is to get tested. The Everlywell Gonorrhea & Chlamydia Test offers an easy, at-home method of accurately determining if you have chlamydia. If you have a positive test, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network and may receive treatment.


Can chlamydia come back after treatment?

5 possible long-term effects of chlamydia


References

1. Chlamydia. Planned Parenthood. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

2. Chlamydia trachomatis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.