Chlamydia Discharge: What Does It Look & Smell Like?

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Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by bacteria that is passed on through sexual contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid.

Men and women with chlamydia don’t usually have symptoms. This means they don’t know they’ve got it, often for long periods of time. If left untreated, chlamydia can spread between sexual partners, leading to more-serious health problems.

For those who do have symptoms, one of the first signs of chlamydia can be an unusual discharge from the vagina or penis. Chlamydia symptoms can start to appear within 1-3 weeks, but they can also appear later than this. Another common symptom that can accompany discharge, is pain when urinating. Women may also experience pain in their stomach and/or bleeding after sex or between periods. Men may have pain and swelling in their testicles.

Chlamydia treatment has a high success rate, and symptoms usually resolve within 1-2 weeks of completing the course of antibiotics.

Read on to find out more about chlamydia discharge and how it differs from other types of discharge. 


What does chlamydia discharge look like?

Chlamydia discharge is different to regular discharge. The appearance of chlamydia discharge is usually yellow in colour, and has a thick, cloudy appearance. It is accompanied by a strong smell.

If you notice discharge similar to that of chlamydia, you should get tested. You can visit your GP, local pharmacy, or your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic to get tested. Alternatively, you can buy a discreet and convenient home chlamydia test kit on the high street or online pharmacy. Unlike other conditions, you cannot make a diagnosis by looking at pictures of chlamydia discharge. This is because discharge can vary amongst individuals. Discharge can also be a symptom of another STI or medical condition, so testing is the most accurate way to confirm diagnosis. 


Chlamydia discharge in women

Vaginal discharge in women is normal. Vaginal fluids and cervical mucus keep the vagina clean, healthy, and moist. It also protects the vagina from infection. Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or white, thick, and sticky, and does not have a strong or unpleasant smell. It's often slippery and wet for a few days during ovulation.

If you notice a change in appearance of discharge, or more discharge than usual, chlamydia is a possibility. Chlamydia presents as a yellow discharge in women; however, the colour and consistency can also appear thick and milky. Chlamydia discharge usually has a strong odour. Women with chlamydia symptoms often have pelvic pain, bleeding, burning, as well as vaginal discharge. The key is to look out for a change in colour, frequency, smell and consistency of discharge.

At least 70% of women with chlamydia do not notice any symptoms. If symptoms do present, they may not appear until several weeks after sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can still cause serious health conditions. If chlamydia is left untreated, it can spread to the womb and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is a serious condition which can cause of ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

Chlamydia is often referred to as a silent STI. This is because asymptomatic individuals who engage in unprotected sexual intercourse are likely to pass the infection on unknowingly.

The NHS recommends that sexually active women who are under 25 should have a chlamydia test once a year, and when they have a new sexual partner. If you have chlamydia, it can usually easily be treated with antibiotics.


Chlamydia discharge in men

Normal discharge in men includes pre-ejaculate and ejaculate. These are released from the tip of the penis during sexual arousal and intercourse. Pre-ejaculate has a thick mucus texture, and ejaculate (semen) has a thick and milky appearance. The presence of discharge from the penis at times other than sexual stimulation may be a sign of an underlying health concern, including chlamydia.

In men, chlamydia discharge is usually white in colour, and accompanied by a strong odour. However, this is not always the case and any discharge that occurs when you are not sexually stimulated, could be a sign of chlamydia. If discharge is accompanied by testicular pain, stinging when urinating, itching or burning at the tip of the penis, you should take a chlamydia test.

At least half of all men with chlamydia don't notice any symptoms. This means that it is easily passed on. In some cases, chlamydia in men can spread to the testicles and epididymis (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles). This can cause pain and swelling and is known as epididymitis or epididymo-orchitis (inflammation of the testicles).

The NHS recommends that sexually active men who are under should have a chlamydia test once a year, and when they meet a new sexual partner.


What does chlamydia discharge smell like?

Chlamydia discharge usually has a strong, foul smell. The odour of chlamydia discharge in women is sometimes said to be fishy, or similar to the smell of pus.


I have used antibiotics, but I still have discharge

There can be several reasons why you have taken antibiotics and you still have discharge or other chlamydia symptoms.

  • Antibiotic treatment can take time to work. Often, they continue to work even once the course is complete. It is not unusual to still experience symptoms even after having completed treatment. However, if symptoms do not resolve soon after completing the course of antibiotics, or they appear to be getting worse, you should visit a sexual health clinic.
  • You or your partner have not completed the full treatment course. Not taking antibiotics as prescribed can result in antibiotics not working.
  • Unprotected sex during treatment, or within 7 days after having finished antibiotics, can result in reinfection.
  • The antibiotics are not effective due to antibiotic resistance. If you have used antibiotics in the past, you may have built up resistance to certain treatments. The first line and most effective treatment for chlamydia is doxycycline. If you are unable to take doxycycline, azithromycin is the second line treatment, but it is not as effective as doxycycline anymore, due to resistance.

If you fall into any of the categories listed above, you should get retested after 6 weeks. Remember, discharge is common. It should be a change in discharge that you are looking out for.

It’s also worth knowing that re-infection is common for chlamydia. Therefore, a follow-up test is recommended 6 months after treatment if you have no symptoms. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should have a follow-up test 3 to 4 weeks after completing treatment.

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.