How Long Does It Take to Show Signs of Chlamydia?

Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2020

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia symptoms will usually appear one to three weeks after exposure, depending on where you have the infection. In many chlamydia cases, there are no symptoms.
Chlamydia symptoms will usually appear one to three weeks after exposure, depending on where you have the infection. In many chlamydia cases, there are no symptoms.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. You can get it on your penis, vagina, anus, or in your throat. In rare cases, chlamydia can also infect the eyes.

In many cases, there are no symptoms. However, if you do experience symptoms, they will appear one to three weeks after exposure.

Symptoms of chlamydia

The symptoms of chlamydia depend on where you have the infection. Listed below are some common symptoms for each common location of chlamydia

Vaginal chlamydia:

Chlamydia in the penis:

Chlamydia in the throat:

Chlamydia in the anus:

Chlamydia in the eyes (trachoma):

When left untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems. Untreated trachoma is one of the top preventable causes of blindness globally.

In people with vaginas, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Symptoms of PID include:

Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause uterine scar tissue, infertility, ectopic pregnancies, and chronic abdominal pain

People with untreated chlamydia of the penis can develop painful, swollen testicles. They may also have painful urination and pain during sex. Left untreated, this can also lead to infertility.

Some people with untreated, long-term chlamydia also develop arthritis—painful inflammation of the joints.

Causes of chlamydia

The only cause of chlamydia is an infection of the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. It is usually spread through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person's mouth, vagina, penis, or anus. You can get it from someone with a penis even if they don't ejaculate, because it can spread through genital contact. You can also get it from contact with someone's semen or sexual fluids.

You can prevent chlamydia transmission by using barriers during sex. These include condoms, dental dams, and internal condoms.

Diagnosis for chlamydia

The only way for a doctor to diagnose you with chlamydia is for you to get tested. There are two types of tests to diagnose chlamydia:

  • Urine test - You urinate into a cup and doctors test the urine for traces of bacteria.
  • Swab test - Doctors take a swab of the affected area and test that for bacteria.

You should get tested immediately if you have symptoms of chlamydia or you find out a recent sexual partner has chlamydia.

Even if you don't have symptoms of chlamydia, regular testing for sexually transmitted infections is a good idea. Many people with chlamydia have no symptoms, and other STDs may show no symptoms.

If you're under age 25 and sexually active, you should get tested for chlamydia at least once a year. You should also get tested if you have a new sexual partner. 

People of any age should get tested regularly if:

  • They have multiple sexual partners
  • They regularly have anonymous sex
  • They regularly  have unprotected sex 

Pregnant people should also get tested at the beginning of pregnancy since chlamydia can be passed to a baby through childbirth.

Treatments for chlamydia

Doctors can treat chlamydia with antibiotics. The main antibiotics prescribed are azithromycin and doxycycline. However, other antibiotics work if you can not take those due to allergy or pregnancy.  

Part of the treatment for chlamydia includes informing your recent sexual partners so they can get tested and treated as well. Some clinics offer to do this anonymously to protect your identity while helping to stop the spread of chlamydia in the community.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2020
References
Avert: "Chlamydia Symptoms & Treatment."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "STD Risk and Oral Sex - CDC Fact Sheet."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Which STD Tests Should I Get?"

Health Link BC: "Chlamydia."

Mayo Clinic: "Trachoma."

National Health Service: "Diagnosis Chlamydia."

National Health Service: "Symptoms Chlamydia."

National Health Service: "Treatment Chlamydia."