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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can be spread when a person with chlamydia has unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t have the infection — this can happen during oral, anal, or genital sex.

Chlamydia is relatively common. Nearly 3 million new cases are reported every year.

Because it’s caused by bacteria, chlamydia is treatable with antibiotics and by using protection whenever you have sex.

But a lot of people who are exposed to chlamydia don’t even know they have it at first. The majority of people who have chlamydia don’t experience any symptoms at all.

And even if you do have symptoms, they may not show up for anywhere from 1 week to 3 or more months after the infection is first spread to you through sexual intercourse.

Let’s get into how long it usually takes before chlamydia shows up on a test, whether there are any differences in when it shows up in people with penises rather than people with vulvas, and what to do when you do notice the symptoms.

There are several tests that you doctor might use to diagnose chlamydia:

  • Urine test. You’ll pee in a cup that’s sent off to a laboratory testing facility to see if any chlamydia bacteria are present in your urine.
  • Blood test. Your doctor will use a sterile needle to draw some of your blood and send it to a lab to see if antibodies to the chlamydia bacteria are present in your bloodstream.
  • Swab. Your doctor will use a cotton round or stick to take a small sample of infected tissue or fluid, which is then sent to a lab to be cultured so that lab technicians can see what bacteria grows from the sample.

How long it takes for the results to show up depends on the test and on your specific health insurance plan.

  • Urine tests take about 2 to 5 days to show a positive (you have it) or negative (you don’t have it) result.
  • Blood tests can come back with results in a few minutes if the blood is analyzed on site. But they can take a week or more if sent to an off-site lab.
  • Swab results take about 2 to 3 days to show a positive or negative.

Chlamydia symptoms typically take about 1 to 3 weeks to show up in people with vulvas.

Symptoms may take up a few months to show up. This is because bacteria are living creatures and have an incubation period that affects how long it takes them to cluster together and become infectious.

This incubation period is dependent on a variety of factors, including:

  • how much of the bacteria you were exposed to
  • what part of your body the bacteria entered, such as the genitals, anus, throat, etc.
  • how quickly the bacteria reproduce
  • how strong your immune system is against the bacteria

There’s no significant difference in the amount of time it takes for chlamydia symptoms to show up for people with penises as compared to people with vulvas.

The only major difference in the time it takes for symptoms to show up among people of various sexes may be related to how often symptoms show up.

According to the Children’s National Health System, 90 percent of people with vulvas don’t ever experience any physical symptoms, while 70 percent of people with penises never notice any symptoms.

This difference in who actually experiences symptoms between these two groups may have some effect on how long it takes for symptoms show up. But there’s never been any definitive link between your sex and when your symptoms appear.

Symptoms of chlamydia in your throat are typically caused by having oral sex with someone who has the infection.

It’s much less common to notice throat symptoms, but they may still appear after a week or so, up to a few months or longer.

STI tests that look for chlamydia aren’t always done on the throat since it’s a less commonly infected area. Ask your doctor for a throat swab or other chlamydia test if you think you’ve been exposed through oral sex.

Here are the most common symptoms of chlamydia in both people with penises and people with vulvas.

People with penises

  • pain when you pee
  • abnormal clear or cloudy discharge from the penis
  • unusual itchiness or burning sensations in your urethra
  • pain in your testes
  • swelling around your testes from epididymitis

People with vulvas

  • pain when you pee
  • abnormal clear or cloudy discharge from the vagina
  • pain in your abdomen or around your hips
  • pain or discomfort when you have sex
  • bleeding after you have sex
  • unusual bleeding when you’re not on your period
  • pain around your rectum or anus

Chlamydia is definitely curable, and the best treatment for a chlamydia infection is a dose of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Your doctor will likely prescribe one of the following to help treat the infection:

  • Azithromycin (Zithromax). Also called a Z-Pak, this antibiotic is usually taken in one big dose.
  • Doxycycline (Oracea). This antibiotic is usually dosed out to be taken two times a day for a week.
  • Erythromycin (Erygel). This antibiotic is normally given in a dose of four daily pills taken for a week.
  • Levofloxacin (Levaquin). This antibiotic is taken once daily for a week.
  • Ofloxacin (Floxin). This antibiotic is taken twice daily for a week.

Make sure you follow your dosage instructions closely. You may need up to 2 weeks for an antibiotic to fully clear the infection and stop seeing symptoms.

Antibiotics may not work if you don’t take the entire prescribed dose. This can also cause the infectious bacteria to become resistant to the medication, making them harder to treat.

Until the treatment is done and your doctor tells you the infection is fully treated, don’t have sex. This will prevent you from spreading the infection to a partner. Even protected sex carries a risk of spreading bacterial infections.

Home remedies for chlamydia symptoms

You may still experience painful or uncomfortable symptoms while you’re taking chlamydia antibiotics.

Here are some home remedies for reducing your pain and other symptoms while you’re waiting for the antibiotics to work:

  • pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) to reduce pain
  • cold pack to help limit swelling and inflammation
  • goldenseal to reduce inflammation and potentially make symptoms less severe
  • echinacea to bolster your immune system against the infection and reduce your symptoms
  • turmeric containing an ingredient called curcumin to reduce inflammation and make symptoms less severe

No studies support the effectiveness of these supplements specifically for chlamydia, so take them with caution.

And there’s no substitute for antibiotics when treating chlamydia. Only try these remedies if you’re already taking antibiotics or if you plan to go to the doctor.

Chlamydia is easy to treat and isn’t serious if it’s treated quickly.

Symptoms don’t show up in a majority of people who get it. But it’s important to get it treated to prevent any long-term complications, such as infertility or conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease.

Have protected sex to help prevent chlamydia bacteria from spreading. And get tested regularly for STIs if you have multiple sexual partners or if your partner has multiple partners now or in the past and hasn’t been tested.