4 Common Chlamydia Symptoms That Are Easy to Miss

Chlamydia is super hard to spot because it often has no signs at all.

chlamydia symptoms
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Finding out you have chlamydia—the most common bacterial STD with nearly three million infections every year—can be scary. But unlike herpes, antibiotics can clear chlamydia up, keeping you healthy and happy below the belt.

But when left untreated, the infection—which attacks your cervix—can travel up to your uterus or fallopian tubes, leading to serious conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease, scarring, and even infertility, says Monica Svets, MD, an ob-gyn at the Cleveland Clinic.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates only 5 to 30 percent of women with chlamydia develop symptoms, making the infection super hard to spot. That’s because the signs are sometimes overlooked or brushed aside as something else, says Dr. Svets—so keep an eye out for the following red flags.

Painful sex

A lack of lubrication, stress, and certain health conditions can all lead to painful sex, so you might not automatically assume your discomfort is stemming from chlamydia.

If the cells of your cervix are fighting an infection like chlamydia, sex could hurt, because your partner is inching up toward the cervix and irritating an already ‘angry’ area where the infection is, says Eric Ganz, MD, an assistant professor of gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

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Irregular bleeding

If you bleed in between cycles, after sex, or simply notice here and there spotting, it could be that a chlamydia infection has made the cells of your cervix more fragile. This makes it more likely that you’ll bleed sporadically throughout the month or after sex which can cause irritation, says Dr. Ganz.

Just note that many different conditions can cause irregular vaginal bleeding (like polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, or even endometriosis), so check in with your doc to verify the root of the issue.

Funky discharge

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Docs refer to the vaginal discharge associated with chlamydia as “mucopurulent”—a thick, yellow-greenish discharge that is uncomfortable and has a puss-like look to it, says Dr. Svets. When the bacteria infects the cells of the genital tract and the glandular cells of the cervix, your body creates white blood cells, and in turn, more discharge to help fight the infection, she explains.

UTI-like symptoms

Notice some mild pelvic pain or that dull pressure you’d typically associate with a urinary tract infection? Feel a little bit of a burning sensation when you pee or like you have to go even if you don’t? Sometimes, chlamydia can infect the urethra, the duct that urine flows through, causing symptoms around urination, says Dr. Svets.


How to treat chlamydia

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Even though it feels like the end of the world, you can get rid of chlamydia. First, your doctor will do a vaginal swab to confirm you have the infection. If you do, antibiotics can treat it. Usually, a doctor will prescribe one single dose of Zithromax (Z-Pak), but there are several different types of antibiotics that can do the trick, says the CDC.

If you’re in a relationship, it’s important to tell your partner about your infection and to make sure he or she also gets tested, says Dr. Svets.

Because chlamydia often pops up with no symptoms, the CDC recommends women under 25 as well as older women with risk factors (new partners or a partner with a STI) be screened yearly. If you’re pregnant, you should also be screened for chlamydia during your first prenatal visit.

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