Chlamydia is a common enough disease that almost everyone has heard of it. We tend to associate it with the younger sexually active crowd, old enough to engage in most or all forms of intimate activity, but not old enough to have settled down with one partner – which drastically reduces the chances of catching or transmitting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Unfortunately, popular opinion still holds that women are responsible for the vast majority of sexual and reproductive health. This leaves men in the unfortunate position of being both undereducated and disenfranchised when it comes to making decisions about their sexual health. Moreover, it makes them more likely to carry and pass diseases to women who are careful about their own health, which isn’t fair.
It’s time that changed. While chlamydia does not appear to be as common in men, it is still a widespread issue. If you’re a sexually active man – or you care about one and need more information – here’s the rundown on chlamydia symptoms in men, as well as other necessary information.
Chlamydia: The Definition
According to Medline Plus, “Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.” (1)
Once it has infected its host, the bacteria moves inside cells and begins to harvest energy molecules known as ATP. Because the bacteria is unable to produce them itself, it will continue to feed off the host’s energy production facilities until the disease is treated. While there is no good research on whether or not chlamydia naturally goes away on its own (as the ethics of such an experiment are without question deleterious to humanity’s health), facts do seem to support the supposition that chlamydia does not resolve on its own. (2)
For that reason, it’s important to understand chlamydia’s pervasiveness and symptoms.
How Common Is Chlamydia?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), men are far less likely to contract – or at least to report – cases of chlamydia. Compared to nearly 4,000 women in the 20-24 age bracket (as of 2017 figures), there are only 1,700 cases in the male bracket of the same age. The numbers are proportionately lower in most age groups – although not all. The second most likely age bracket for men is 25-29, followed by 15-19. While there are a few cases every year of younger children, men should pay most attention to the chances of infection between 15 and 30. (3)
Also note, that since these numbers are likely underreported due to the fact that men visit the doctor less often than women. Although this trend holds across age groups and medical problems, it almost assuredly impacts the number of cases reported by men. (4)
On the other hand, vaginal tissue is more likely to tear and get infected than tissue in the penis, which could account for higher numbers of women contracting the disease. However, men who engage in anal sex (especially receiving it) are more likely to get chlamydia, along with a host of other STDs, due to the fragility of tissue in the rectum – a prime spot for contracting chlamydia. (5)
It’s also important to note that past the age of 40, men actually become more likely than women to contract chlamydia. From 45-54, for instance, there are 106 reported cases for men annually, versus only 63 for women. That said, of course, this is not the age range that typically needs to worry about contracting the disease.
Common Symptoms of Chlamydia in Men
Chlamydia, like many sexually transmitted diseases, is good at lying in wait. It can go undetected for months or even years before manifesting symptoms, which makes it difficult to catch in people who don’t undergo regular STD testing. However, it does also manifest in symptoms in many cases. Those symptoms include (6):
- Discharge from the tip of the penis
- Pain while urinating
- Stinging or itching in the urethra or tip of the penis
- Swollen testicles
- Sore or painful testicles
- Discharge from the rectum
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Sore throat
- Conjunctivitis, or infection of the eye
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it is critical you get tested. For one thing, when chlamydia goes untreated, it can lead to urinary tract complications as well as swollen and painful testicles. It also puts you at greater risk of contracting other STDs, such as gonorrhea and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
For another, carrying chlamydia – even if it is totally asymptomatic – still puts others at risk, including male sexual partners, female sexual partners and potential children born of women infected with chlamydia. As the New York State Department of Health explains, “Chlamydia infection during pregnancy may result in premature rupture of membranes, preterm delivery and possible tubal pregnancy in a small percent of women. In addition, chlamydia can cause conjunctival (eye) and pneumonic (lung) infection in the newborn.” (7)
How Can You Protect Yourself from Chlamydia?
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from contracting chlamydia. This in turn will protect your partners, and their partners and their partners, from potential infection. If we all do our part, we can help reduce the pervasiveness of chlamydia and prevent its potentially devastating consequences.
Among the most important protective measures are to:
- Avoid unprotected sex with a partner whose sexual history is unknown
- Minimize the number of partners at any given time
- Practice safe sex (condoms and other protective devices) if you are not going to practice monogamy or abstinence
- Get tested regularly with a reputable STD screening kit
Are you sexually active? Regular screening is an essential part of a healthy sex life and can protect you and your partners from chlamydia. For affordable and accurate STD screening in the privacy of your own home, request your STD test kit today.
(1) Chlamydia. (2019). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/chlamydiainfections.html
(2) STD Awareness: Will STDs Go Away on Their Own? (2016). Retrieved from http://advocatesaz.org/2016/04/25/std-awareness-will-stds-go-away-on-their-own/
(3) Chlamydia Statistics. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stats.htm
(4) Why Don’t Men Go to the Doctor as Often as Women? (2018). Retrieved from https://www.tricitymed.org/2017/06/dont-men-go-doctor-often-women/
(5) CDC Fact Sheet: What Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men Need to Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/stdfact-msm.htm
(6) Chlamydia in Men: Everything You Need to Know. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324260.php
(7) Chlamydia (Chlamydia Trachomatis Genital Infection). (2006). Retrieved from https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/chlamydia/fact_sheet.htm