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DocSpot: Chlamydia in men

Dear Dr Margaret
My girlfriend has been treated for a chlamydia infection. She wants me to go for a check-up, but I don’t think I need a check. There’s nothing wrong with me.

It’s good that your girlfriend has been tested, and that the infection has been diagnosed, because it is important that chlamydia is treated. Otherwise, in women it can spread upwards into the reproductive tubes (Fallopian tubes) and damage them. These tubes carry eggs from the ovaries into the womb (uterus), so women with damaged tubes may have difficulty becoming pregnant.
In men, a chlamydia infection can cause a discharge from the end of the penis, and pain when passing urine. This is called NSU (non-specific urethritis). However, chlamydia does not always cause NSU; in fact, men with chlamydia often have no symptoms at all. So although you think there is nothing wrong with you, it is quite possible that you have chlamydia. You definitely need some anti-chlamydia treatment and, ideally, a check-up at a sexual health clinic.
Have you had sex with your girlfriend since her treatment? If so, you could have passed the infection back to her. Therefore she will need to have another course of antibiotics at the same time as you. Chlamydia is easy to treat and cure with the correct antibiotic.
Another reason for dealing with this properly is to protect your own health, because chlamydia can cause problems for men as well as for women. NSU is the commonest problem, but chlamydia can sometimes cause pain and swelling in the small tubes around the testicles (epididymitis). Recently, researchers in Sweden found that chlamydia infection can reduce fertility in men.
In the UK, chlamydia is the commonest sexually transmitted infection, and last year the number of diagnosed chlamydia infections rose by 9% to 89,818. The true figure must be much higher than this because many people are unaware they are infected. The best way to protect yourself is to use condoms.

Source of information

Idahl A, Boman J, Kumlin U, Olofsson JI. Human Reproduction 2004;19:1121–6.

Last updated; Thursday, September 3rd 2020

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