There are a number of sexually transmitted infections (better known as STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases) that can affect people. Among them is chlamydia, with one of the highest prevalence rates in the world.
The condition is caused by bacteria, which can affect both men and women. Despite having treatment, the best way to take care of yourself and other people is to bet on prevention.
- 1 What is Chlamydia?
- 2 What are the types of chlamydia?
- 3 What causes Chlamydia disease?
- 4 How does transmission occur?
- 5 Groups of risk
- 6 What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
- 7 How is chlamydia diagnosed?
- 8 Lymphogranuloma venereum
- 9 Is chlamydia curable?
- 10 What is the treatment?
- 11 Untreated chlamydia: what are the risks?
- 12 Koalas and Chlamydia
- 13 Chlamydia drugs
- 14 Prognosis
- 15 Can chlamydia come back after treatment?
- 16 Complications
- 17 Chlamydia in pregnancy
- 18 How to prevent chlamydia?
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is what is called the infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the world. Most of the time it is asymptomatic, which helps in its spread, since it does not need symptoms to be transmitted.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 92 million people are infected with the bacterium each year. It is an easy-to-treat disease, but it can have serious consequences such as infertility if left untreated.
Due to the lack of symptoms, chlamydia easily goes unnoticed. Therefore, if you have had sex without a condom , it is important to have tests to find out if the person is infected. Chlamydia is often associated with gonorrhea .
What are the types of chlamydia?
When talking about types, what is intended is to mention that there are other bacteria in the Chlamydiaceae family that can be transmitted to humans, thus triggering the STI:
Responsible for several respiratory diseases, including atypical bacterial pneumonia , which is pneumonia that is not caused by the most common agents of the disease. The acute infection of this bacterium is often mistaken for asthma .
It causes psittacosis or parrot fever , which is a respiratory disease. Transmission occurs through birds such as parakeets, parrots and macaws, which have the bacteria in their intestinal flora.
Although other diseases caused by bacteria in the Chlamydiaceae family exist, chlamydia is caused only by Chlamydia trachomatis , which is an exclusively human bacterium.
What causes Chlamydia disease?
The cause of the sexually transmitted infection is the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis . This microorganism infects the human genital area, being able to remain dormant for up to 15 days and not necessarily triggering the symptoms.
In some cases, it is possible that no symptoms will arise, and the person does not discover that he is infected and becomes a permanent source of transmission. Thus, if unprotected sex occurs, the bacteria is transmitted to other people. This is why chlamydia is the most common STD in the world.
How does transmission occur?
Like all sexually transmitted diseases, chlamydia is transmitted through unprotected sex. The disease can be transmitted through oral, vaginal and anal sex, the latter two being easier. During oral sex, transmission can cause bacterial pharyngitis .
If the chlamydia patient is pregnant and has a normal delivery, it is possible that the disease is transmitted to the baby. This is problematic, as the child can suffer serious consequences from this infection, and can go blind.
Called trachoma, chlamydia infection in the eyes can be transmitted in several ways, such as through flies or contact with hands contaminated by genital secretions.
Bath towels are not transmitters of chlamydia. Although it is technically possible for someone infected to contaminate a towel that is then used by someone else, contact with the bacteria in the genital region is difficult.
The C. trachomatis does not live long without a host and the simple contact with the skin is not capable of causing disease. Therefore, contamination through towels is not proven.
Although rare, it is possible that an already active chlamydia will worsen through the placement of the IUD. If the woman has active contamination and the IUD comes in contact with the bacteria, it can take them further into the woman’s reproductive system, which is dangerous.
Groups of risk
The following people are in the risk group:
- People with different sexual partners;
- People who have sex without using STD protection;
- Newborns whose mother has chlamydia.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia often shows no symptoms. Estimates indicate that only 30% of men develop symptoms and the numbers are even lower in women: only 10% of female chlamydia infections are symptomatic. The rest usually goes unnoticed.
However, in cases where symptoms are present, they appear between one and three weeks after contamination.
In men, the symptoms are:
- Discharge of pus through the urethra;
- Sore testicles;
- Swelling in the scrotum;
- Burning or pain when urinating.
In women, the symptoms are:
- Vaginal discharge;
- Abdominal pain;
- Vaginal bleeding outside the menstrual period;
- Pain during sex;
- Burning or pain when urinating.
If the infection is anal, it is possible that there is proctitis, an inflammation of the rectum caused by the bacteria, in both sexes.
How is the discharge of Chlamydia?
Sometimes, chlamydia can trigger discharge. It tends to be yellowish, and can vary from lighter to more intense, both in women and men. The discharge can still be accompanied by burning or pain when urinating, in addition to pain in the testicles, in the case of men, or spontaneous bleeding in women.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Since most people do not seek treatment if there are no symptoms, it is difficult to have an early diagnosis of the disease. That is precisely why, if there is unprotected sex, especially with strangers, the exams should be performed.
The specialists who can diagnose chlamydia are the general practitioner , the gynecologist , the obstetrician , the urologist and the pediatrician (in the case of babies). However, even with the symptoms present, it is not possible to make the diagnosis based only on them. These symptoms are extremely similar to those of gonorrhea, so further tests are necessary. Are they:
Urine testing can detect chlamydia. A bacterial culture can be performed to identify the bacteria present in the urine.
Examination of urethral discharge
The purulent material that comes out of the urethra, when there is a symptom, should be examined for the identification of the bacteria.
Smear of the urethra and uterus
A cotton swab is used to rub the urethra and collect the material from it, in order to find the bacteria present there. The same is done in the woman’s uterus so that the diagnosis of chlamydia can be made. The exam result can be released in up to 48 hours.
An exam that can be performed for the diagnosis of chlamydia is the search for IgM and IgG antibodies. The problem is that it is a flawed and outdated exam. Therefore, other options are more recommended for this diagnosis, such as PCR .
PCR is the acronym for Polymerase Chain Reaction , from English, “polymerase chain reaction”. It is an examination done to identify the DNA of chlamydia in vaginal secretions. The same test can be done to detect the bacterium’s DNA in male urine, since, in the case of men, it manifests more easily in the urethra.
Some patients may develop venereal lymphogranuloma, which is a sore or an elevation of the skin caused by the bacterium C. trachomatis . This symptom lasts for three to five days and can go unnoticed. After a few weeks, one of the groin nodes becomes sore and swollen. If left untreated, it evolves to rupture and drain pus.
Due to the lack of lymphatic drainage caused by this rupture, elephantiasis of the genitals, narrowing of the rectum and chronic proctitis can occur. Antibiotics can be used to treat the disease, but not to reverse elephantiasis or the narrowing of the rectum.
Is chlamydia curable?
Yes, chlamydia is curable and it is usually quite simple. Antibiotic treatment easily resolves the problem when the disease is discovered early. However, it is worth mentioning that, after being treated, the person can be infected again. Therefore, care and prevention are permanent.
What is the treatment?
Antibiotics are administered to eliminate the bacteria. It is possible to receive the medication in one dose or over the course of a week.
Since the symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea are very similar and diseases are often associated, it is common for the doctor to prescribe specific antibiotics for both infections.
It is important that all partners with whom the patient has unprotected relationships are advised and undergo treatment as well, even if they do not show symptoms, in order to prevent the disease from spreading. It is also a good idea to avoid sexual intercourse for at least seven days after treatment and until the symptoms disappear.
Remembering that having had chlamydia once does not immunize the person and they can contract the disease again.
Untreated chlamydia: what are the risks?
The treatment of chlamydia is simple and effective. however, if left untreated, the condition can have health impacts. This includes pain and discomfort in the abdomen region due to the infection, which can lead to its generalization. Thus, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), triggering fertility problems, ectopic or tubal pregnancies.
Koalas and Chlamydia
Animal symbol of Australia, the Koala is known for being cute, but is in danger of being extinct because of chlamydia. The variation in the bacterium that infects koalas is Chlamydophila pecorum , from the same family as human chlamydia.
Koala disease can be transmitted to humans through urine, but this is extremely rare. This bacterium mainly affects sheep, cattle, pigs and marsupials, such as the koala itself. Women exposed to it may have placentitis and miscarriage.
More than half of Australia’s koala population – the only place in the animal’s natural world – has the disease and some communities of them have up to 80% contamination.
The version of the marsupial disease causes blindness and death in several of the animals. The disease is transmitted between them both through sex and the birth of new koalas.
The drugs used to cure chlamydia are antibiotics. Are they:
- Azithromycin ;
- Doxycycline Hydrochloride .
Babies and pregnant women:
- Azithromycin ;
- Eritromicina (Ilosone).
When diagnosed early, the disease can be easily treated and the cure is complete, with no sequelae or possibility of transmission. Although there is no immunization after the first contamination, the patient has an extremely high chance of complete cure.
Some complications can be caused by the disease and we will talk about them later. Complications are often irreversible, so care must be taken during sexual intercourse to avoid STDs and always go to the doctor in cases where the disease is suspected.
Can chlamydia come back after treatment?
Yea! Whoever caught chlamydia and did the treatment correctly, getting rid of the STI, can still get it again. That is, it does not confer immunity and prevention must be continuous.
If left untreated, chlamydia can have serious consequences for the infected person’s body. Conditions that cause infertility are more common in women than in men. Some of the complications are:
The bacteria can contaminate and cause inflammation in the epididymis, microscopic vessels that transport maturing sperm out of the testicles. This inflammation can block the vessels, leading to male infertility.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
When the chlamydia bacterium rises to the uterine tubes, it causes pelvic inflammatory disease. This disease is an STD that can be caused by several bacteria in addition to C. trachomatis , such as gonorrhea bacteria.
DIP causes infertility in women, since, with infection in the tubes, there is a blockage (salpingitis) and sperm may not reach the eggs, or the eggs may not reach the uterus. This happens because of tubal abscesses created by the infection.
In addition, DIP increases the chances of an ectopic pregnancy , in which the embryo develops in the tubes instead of the uterus.
Orchitis is inflammation of the testicles. It can be caused by the infection of the chlamydia bacteria and prevent the passage of sperm.
Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra , caused by bacterial infection. The version caused by C. trachomatis is non-gonococcal urethritis, which is not caused by gonorrhea bacteria. If left untreated, it can lead to a narrowing of the urethra (urethral stricture).
Also called granulomatous conjunctivitis , trachoma is a disease caused by infection of the eyelids, conjunctiva and corneas (structures of the eyes), by the bacterium C. trachomatis.
Transmission can happen by accident, if the patient has a hand contaminated by the bacteria and passes it through the eye. It is treatable with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can lead to blindness.
An inflammation in the prostate can be caused by the chlamydia bacteria, if it can get there.
Characterized by inflammation and infection of the vaginal lubrication glands, bartolinitis can happen in the case of chlamydia. Pus-filled abscesses may appear in the region.
Infection of the cervix that can lead to cysts, back pain and vaginal discharge.
Rarely, the bacterium C. trachomatis , or part of it, is able to be transported to a joint, causing reactive arthritis , which is a rheumatic disease in response to an infection elsewhere in the body.
Chlamydia in pregnancy
Acquiring chlamydia during pregnancy can pose some risks for both mother and baby. Could have:
- Spontaneous abortion;
- Death of the fetus;
- Premature delivery;
- Low weight at birth.
In addition, when passing through the vaginal canal, the baby can be contaminated by the bacteria. This can cause:
- Chlamydia pneumonia;
The consequences for the baby can be severe: the child may go blind, develop asthma or other illnesses.
How to prevent chlamydia?
Like any sexually transmitted disease, prevention is done at the time of sex. Using a condom is the most guaranteed way to avoid chlamydia, especially when you have more than one partner, as unprotected sex spreads the disease that is difficult to detect due to the lack of symptoms.
If unprotected sex happens, testing for chlamydia is recommended, as when complications start to appear, they can be irreversible.
Chlamydia is a silent disease, easy to treat but which can have serious consequences. It spreads quickly among people and if left untreated, it can lead to infertility, in addition to other serious infections.
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