Chlamydia: symptoms, incubation period, cause and treatment

In the Netherlands, approximately 60,000 people contract the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia every year. People often do not know that they have the STD because it is often asymptomatic, but in the meantime they infect others with it. Chlamydia can be detected by a urine test or after a culture of the cervix or urethra. Treatment is necessary; chlamydia does not go away on its own. Treatment consists of prescribing an antibiotic.

  • What is chlamydia?
  • Chlamydia incubation period
  • Symptoms of chlamydia
  • Often no symptoms
  • Symptoms of chlamydia in women
  • Symptoms of chlamydia in men
  • Chlamydia during pregnancy
  • Complications
  • PID
  • Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Diagnosis and chlamydia test
  • Treatment of chlamydia
  • Prognosis
  • Preventing chlamydia


What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Western countries, especially in young women. The venereal disease is caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis . The culprit settles in the mucous membrane of the penis, vagina or anus and causes inflammation there. Untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women.

Chlamydia incubation period

Chlamydia is highly contagious and the bacteria can be transmitted during sexual contact. The first symptoms may appear after one to three weeks. The period between infection and the first symptoms is called the incubation period.

Symptoms of chlamydia

Often no symptoms

Chlamydia is known as the ‘silent’ disease or STD, because it is often asymptomatic, meaning that a person does not notice that he or she is infected. In the meantime, this STD is passed on and can eventually affect women’s fertility. It is estimated that approximately 70-75% of women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. A significant proportion of men also have the disease asymptomatically. Complaints that one may experience are:

Symptoms of chlamydia in women

Women may experience the following symptoms:

  • An increase in vaginal discharge caused due to an inflamed cervix;
  • The urge to urinate more often than normal;
  • Pain during urination or a burning sensation during urination;
  • Pain during intercourse or bleeding after sex;
  • Pain in the lower abdomen;
  • Lower back pain;
  • Blood loss between two periods;
  • Infertility.


Symptoms of chlamydia in men

Men may experience the following complaints:

  • white, clear and watery discharge from the penis which is visible on the underwear;
  • A burning sensation and/or pain when urinating or defecating;
  • Pain and swelling in the testicles.


Chlamydia during pregnancy

A woman infected with chlamydia can infect her baby during childbirth. It turns out that about half to three-quarters of pregnant women infect their baby during childbirth. Half of infected babies get an eye infection and some babies get a respiratory infection. Babies with a chlamydia eye infection usually recover after treatment without residual damage.


The initial damage chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia infections can lead to serious health problems with both short- and long-term consequences.


In women, untreated chlamydia can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Symptomatic PID occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of women with untreated chlamydia. However, chlamydia can also cause subclinical PID. Both acute and subclinical PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissue. The damage can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility and possibly even an ectopic pregnancy.

Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome

Some patients with chlamydial PID develop Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome, which is characterized by pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. The cause is an ascending infection from the pelvis, often a fallopian tube infection. As the infection spreads, the liver capsule and diaphragm become inflamed.

Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis can occur in men and women after symptomatic or asymptomatic chlamydial infection. Reactive arthritis is joint inflammation that occurs in response to an infection elsewhere in the body.

Urinalysis / Source:

Diagnosis and chlamydia test

Chlamydia can be detected by a urine test or after a culture of the cervix or urethra. It may take several days for the results to appear. Since 2011, a new test for chlamydia has been on the market. This test determines more quickly and easily which type of chlamydia someone is suffering from. In contrast to previous methods, this test shows more precisely which subtype of the bacteria someone is infected with. There are a total of 19 different species of Chlamydia trachomatis. Gay men in particular benefit from this new test, as they often have a subtype among their members that needs to be treated with antibiotics for longer than usual.
There are three ways someone can test whether they have contracted chlamydia:

  • Home test. There are reliable chlamydia home tests from various brands. You can purchase these at a drugstore or pharmacy. The Chlamydia home test gives the result within half an hour, but is only suitable for women. It is not suitable for men and it is also not suitable for pregnant women.
  • GGD. Someone can be tested for STDs anonymously at the GGD.
  • GP. If someone suspects an STD, they can have themselves tested by their GP.

NB: The NOS reported on March 2, 2012 that the chlamydia rapid test that can be done at home does not work properly. This is what the GGD Amsterdam says after research with the AMC, the VU medical center and Surinamese researchers.ยน During the study, more than 900 women in Suriname were tested and in more than half of the cases the results were incorrect. In a number of cases, the home test showed that the woman in question was STD-free, but a sample from the hospital showed that she was infected. Due to their unreliability, home tests do not meet the criteria of the World Health Organization, according to the researchers. It is therefore advisable to take a ‘regular’ STD test from your GP or the GGD if you suspect chlamydia or another STD. Even in 2023, STD self-tests that you do yourself and where you see the results immediately are not reliable.

Treatment of chlamydia

The treatment consists of a course of antibiotics. It appears that the disease may still be contagious up to about a week after treatment. Due to the risk of infection, it is important to avoid sexual contact during that period and to at least use a condom. In addition, it is important that the patient informs (former) partner(s) that he has chlamydia at least six months ago. The partners can then be tested for chlamydia, even if they have no complaints, since chlamydia is often symptomless.


Chlamydia infections can lead to serious health problems with both short- and long-term consequences. In women, untreated chlamydia can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs. Symptomatic PID occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of women with untreated chlamydia.

Preventing chlamydia

Sexual abstinence is the only absolutely safe way to prevent chlamydia infection. Safer sexual behavior such as using condoms and avoiding anal sex can significantly reduce the risk. A long-term monogamous sexual relationship with a person who is demonstrably known not to have a sexually transmitted disease among its members is recommended.



read more

  • Chlamydia: symptoms, causes, treatment and prognosis
  • Fallopian tube inflammation: symptoms, cause and treatment
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV): symptoms and treatment
  • Discharge from the penis or urethra in men: causes
  • STD symptoms: discharge from the penis or vagina, pain and itching
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