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Chlamydial infections - male

Definition

Chlamydia infection in males is an infection of the urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder and passes through the penis). This type of chlamydia infection is passed from one person to another during sexual contact.

Causes

Chlamydia infection is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. Both males and females may have chlamydia without having any symptoms. As a result, you may become infected or pass the infection to your partner without knowing it.

You are more likely to become infected with chlamydia if you:

  • Have sex without wearing a male or female condom
  • Have more than one sexual partner
  • Use drugs or alcohol and then have sex

Symptoms

  • Difficulty urinating, which includes painful urination or a burning sensation during urination
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Redness, swelling, or itching of the opening of the urethra at the tip of the penis
  • Swelling and tenderness of the testicles

Chlamydia and gonorrhea often occur together.

The symptoms of chlamydia infection may be similar to symptoms of gonorrhea, but they continue even after treatment for gonorrhea.

Exams and Tests

If you have symptoms of a chlamydia infection, the health care provider may take a sample of discharge from the penis and send it to a lab to be tested, or have the lab do a test called PCR. Results will take 1 to 2 days to come back.

Your health care provider may also check you for other types of infections, such as gonorrhea.

Men who do not have symptoms of a chlamydia infection are usually not tested.

Treatment

Chlamydia can be treated with a variety of antibiotics.

  • Common side effects of these antibiotics include nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea.
  • You and your partner should finish all of the antibiotics, even if you feel better.

You and your sexual partner must be treated to avoid passing the infections back and forth. Even partners without symptoms need to be treated.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Antibiotic treatment is almost always successful. If your symptoms do not improve quickly, make sure you are also being treated for gonorrhea (GC) and other infections spread through sexual contact.

Severe infections or infections that are not treated quickly may rarely cause scarring of the urethra. This problem can make it harder to pass urine, and may require surgery.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of a chlamydia infection.

Prevention

Practicing safe sex means taking steps before and during sex that can prevent you from getting an infection, or from giving one to your partner.

Before having sex:

  • Get to know your partner and discuss your sexual histories.
  • Don't feel forced into having sex.
  • Don't have sexual contact with anyone but your partner.

Your sexual partner should be someone who you know does not have any sexually transmitted infection (STI). Before having sex with a new partner, each of you should get screened for STIs and share the test results with each other.

If you have an STI such as HIV or herpes, let any sexual partner know before you have sex. Allow him or her to decide what to do. If you both agree to have sexual contact, use latex or polyurethane condoms.

Use condoms for all vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse.

  • The condom should be in place from the beginning to the end of the sexual activity. Use it every time you have sex.
  • Keep in mind that STIs can be spread by contact with surrounding skin areas. A condom reduces your risk.

Other tips include:

  • Use lubricants. They may help reduce the chance that a condom will break.
  • Use only water-based lubricants. Oil-based or petroleum-type lubricants can cause latex to weaken and tear.
  • Polyurethane condoms are less prone to breaking than latex condoms, but they cost more.
  • Using condoms with nonoxynol-9 (a spermicide) may increase the chance of HIV transmission.

Stay sober. Alcohol and drugs impair your judgment. When you are not sober, you might not choose your partner as carefully. You may also forget to use condoms, or use them incorrectly.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59:1-110.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for the laboratory-based detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, 2014. MMWR. 2014;63:1-24.

Geisler WM. Diseases caused by chlamydiae. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 326.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for chlamydial infection: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147:128-134.

Review Date:6/2/2014
Reviewed By:Scott Miller, MD, urologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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