Chlamydia has made its way around the block and is now the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Although chlamydia can be easily cured with a course of antibiotics, when left untreated, chlamydia can lead to severe complications.
We’re going to cover both the symptoms and the possible complications of untreated chlamydia in men throughout this blog post. Remember, if you have any doubts about whether you may or may not be suffering from symptoms of chlamydia, or have asymptomatic chlamydia, make sure to order a test kit and put your mind at ease.
What Is Chlamydia?
In short, chlamydia is a bacterial STI that can be transmitted through various sexual acts. Chlamydia not only affects the sexual organs but can also affect your throat and eyes (causing conjunctivitis).
To diagnose chlamydia, you’ll need to get a test. STI tests are available at most sexual health clinics, however, if you wish to be more discreet, you can order one of our at-home test kits and send your sample directly to our laboratory without the need for face-to-face contact.
Symptoms Of Chlamydia In Men
One of the most significant challenges that come with diagnosing chlamydia, and other STIs, is that they typically present no symptoms. The presenting symptoms can also be mild that people ignore them or mistake them for other common conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTIs).
In men who become symptomatic, chlamydia typically presents in the following ways:
● Pain during urination
● Penile discharge (this could be clear, cloudy, or watery)
● Itchy genitals
● Burning sensation when urinating
● Testicular pain
● Pain in your abdomen
Chlamydia can also affect the anus if you are having anal sex. Symptoms that may arise from anal chlamydia are:
● Rectal bleeding
● Rectal discharge
● Rectal pain
When participating in oral sex with somebody who has chlamydia, there is a risk of transmission to the throat and eyes. These symptoms typically present as:
● Sore throat
● Eye pain
Long-Term Complications Of Chlamydia
If chlamydia remains undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to significant health complications in both males and females. According to the CDC, the diagnosis of chlamydia in men typically arises due to symptoms typically presented in two main long-term complications: urethritis and epididymitis.
The urethra is the tube that runs along the length of the penis, carrying urine from the bladder to the head of the penis. Chlamydial urethritis is an infection of the urethra resulting from untreated chlamydia.
Signs and symptoms of urethritis include:
● Painful or burning sensation when peeing
● Yellow or beige penile discharge
● Painful testicles
● Swollen testicles
Since chlamydial urethritis is a bacterial infection, it can almost always be successfully treated with a course of antibiotics. However, it is important to note that the treatment of chlamydial urethritis depends on the nature of the initial infection. For example, If urethritis occurs as a complication of the Herpes Simplex Virus, then anti-viral medications are used.
The Vas Deferens, otherwise known as the testicular tubes, carry sperm from the epididymis to the head of the penis on ejaculation. Epididymitis is an infection of one of the testicular tubes. Usually, the testicular tubes become painful and swollen, leading to significant pain.
Epididymitis often occurs as a result of untreated chlamydia, though it may also arise during intense, vigorous exercise such as running, complications of UTIs, and prostatitis. When the testicles are also affected, it leads to a condition known as epididymo-orchitis.
The symptoms of epididymitis include:
● Pain in your testicles (the pain can be felt in only one or both testicles, and may spread to the groin)
● Tender, warm and swollen scrotum
● Fluid buildup inside your scrotum which gives the sensation of a swelling
● Difficulty peeing
● Penile discharge
The good news is that chlamydial epididymitis can be treated using a course of antibiotics and pain medication. A healthcare practitioner may also advise that you use a cold compress on your scrotum to help reduce inflammation. In more severe cases, surgery can usually correct any physical defects that may be causing the chronic infection.
Multiple studies conducted by the American College of Rheumatology show that untreated chlamydia can lead to sexually acquired reactive arthritis - redness, swelling, and pain in your joints triggered by an infection in other parts of your body.
Sexually acquired reactive arthritis affects men more commonly than women and presents with typical arthritic symptoms such as:
● Pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints (especially in your knees, feet, hips, ankles, and toes)
● Pain in your heels, toes, fingers, and lower back
● Uveitis (eye pain)
● Urethritis (Inflammation of the urethra)
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for sexually acquired reactive arthritis, but the symptoms can typically be managed using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, physiotherapy--and, in severe cases, immunomodulating anti-rheumatic drugs. The initial cause of sexually acquired reactive arthritis can often be treated using antibiotics.
A study carried out in 2004 established that men who have ever had chlamydia are more likely to suffer from subfertility - reduced fertility resulting in a prolonged time of unwanted non-conception. Although infertility from untreated chlamydia is more common in women, further research suggests that the proportion of infected men suffering from infertility is far greater than what is documented.
Reducing your risk of contracting and/or transmitting STIs is essential in ensuring good sexual health. Early detection of STIs reduces your risk of suffering from long-term complications associated with untreated STIs. Some of the most common methods of reducing your risk of contracting or transmitting STIs are:
● Using effective barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams
● Regular screening for both you and your partner
The majority of sexually active adults will not experience symptoms from STIs. It is therefore vital for you and your partner(s) to make sure you are screened at least once a year, and always whenever you get a new sexual partner. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, be sure to get tested and/or attend your local GUM clinic. STIs are nothing to be embarrassed about, and when left untreated they could lead to significant complications which are detrimental to your health. If you test positive for an STI, it is crucial to inform your recent sexual partner(s) so that they can get tested and, if necessary, treated.
Hassan Thwaini is a qualified Clinical Pharmacist who has completed his Master's degree at the University of Sunderland. Since then he has not only pursued community and clinical pharmacy, but has expanded to aid in humanitarian work across the less fortunate areas of the globe. Hassan is currently working as a medical writer and has successfully been published within various nutritional websites, produced unique content for his university board, and carried out research for renowned surgeons.