Diseases

Chlamydia (Chlamydia Infection) – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Chlamydia (chlamydial infection)

Chlamydia is a type of bacteria that can infect many living things. In humans, chlamydia infection mainly affects the mucous membranes. Eyes, genitals, and respiratory tract can remain severely ill if infection occurs.

What is chlamydia infection?

There are three subtypes of chlamydia (chlamydia infection) that are relevant to the human organism: Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Chlamydophila psittaci and Chlamydia trachomatis.

The first and second subspecies are often associated with pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

The third type is of particular importance because it not only causes conjunctivitis , but also causes a genital disease that is widespread throughout Europe: the chlamydia infection.

causes

Chlamydia can be transmitted in several ways. According to Welt online, up to ten percent of German women between the ages of 14 and 25 are infected with C. trachomatis, depending on the region. Those affected usually contract this type of chlamydia infection through sexual contact.

The infection occurs through unprotected sex. The likelihood of contracting chlamydia increases with the number of sexual partners. Since many of those affected do not notice any symptoms, the spread continues. Another possible route of infection is droplet infection. All three subspecies mentioned can be transmitted in this way. Contact with other people’s bodily secretions is often unintentional.

In order to produce conjunctivitis, it is sufficient to bring the bacterially colonized finger into contact with the eye. Sources of infection can also be contaminated textiles or toilets. The development of the individual defenses favors or complicates the infection even after contact with chlamydia.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The first symptoms of a chlamydia infection appear after a period of about two to six weeks. In women in particular, an illness with the pathogen can often be completely asymptomatic. First, there is pain and unpleasant itching , caused by inflammation in the genital area.

In women and men, this inflammation can rise as the disease progresses. In women, the first sign of this is often urethritis . This becomes noticeable through pain when urinating, frequent urge to urinate and purulent discharge. If the inflammation spreads further, it can lead to inflammation of the cervix , uterus and fallopian tubes.

This often results in an unpleasant-smelling discharge. The widespread inflammation can be accompanied by fever , diarrhea and pain in the lower abdomen. If the disease is not treated in time, there is a risk of infertility. The infection can also lead to urethritis with the corresponding symptoms in men.

If the inflammation continues to rise in them, inflammation of the epididymis and prostate follows. Children can also become infected with the pathogen during birth if the mother has an existing illness. Possible consequences are chronic conjunctivitis , which can lead to blindness if left untreated , or pneumonia .

Course

Chlamydia have different disease courses depending on the affected body region. C. trachomatis, which is common in these latitudes and causes inflammation in the abdomen, only becomes noticeable after one to three weeks.

Both men and women can experience a burning and stinging sensation when urinating. The symptoms of chlamydia infection are accompanied by itching on the genitals and purulent discharges. If the infection continues in the direction of the uterus and fallopian tubes, the affected person can suffer from fever and abdominal pain .

Untreated chlamydia in the female abdomen can lead to sticky mucous membranes as a result of inflammation. This makes it more difficult for the egg cell to be transported, and fertilized egg cells also nest in the fallopian tube. Thus, infertility is a possible consequence. Adhesion caused by chlamydia infection increases the likelihood of contracting the HIV virus.

complications

If a chlamydia infection is discovered and treated in good time, complications are generally not to be expected. However, if the infection is not treated, it can lead to severe abdominal inflammation in women. Common complications of untreated chlamydia infection are inflammation of the lining of the uterus and fallopian tubes.

Acute pelvic inflammatory disease is particularly problematic for women planning a pregnancy. The inflammation can prevent a fertilized egg from traveling down the fallopian tube and implanting in the uterus. In severe cases, adhesions can also occur, which permanently impair fertility.

Chlamydia infection is also problematic for women who are already pregnant. This can lead to premature labor or a ruptured membrane. Premature births are also increasingly being observed. If the urinary tract is affected, in addition to a ruptured membrane, major discomfort and burning pain when urinating can be expected.

In men, untreated chlamydia infection quite often leads to inflammation of the urethra. Patients then suffer from a strong urge to urinate and great pain when urinating. There is often a mucous discharge.

A rare complication affecting mostly young men is Reiter’s disease. This is accompanied by extremely distressing symptoms. These include swollen ankles and knees, urinary tract infections, eye infections and eczema on the skin and mucous membranes.

When should you go to the doctor?

If symptoms occur after intercourse, a doctor should always be consulted. Symptoms such as itching in the intimate area, problems urinating and skin changes indicate a chlamydia infection. For reasons of the risk of infection alone, this should be diagnosed and treated immediately. Other warning signs that are important to check are genital or anus pain, unusual vaginal discharge, or abdominal pain that occurs for no apparent reason.

A doctor’s visit is also advisable if you suddenly start bleeding between periods, the menstrual period is heavier than usual or other changes in menstruation are noticed. At the latest when symptoms of joint inflammation appear, a medical investigation is necessary.

Left untreated, chlamydia can cause severe symptoms, including blindness, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or premature birth, and arthritis. Immediate and comprehensive diagnostics is therefore necessary in every case. If the symptoms are associated with unprotected sexual intercourse or contact with potentially infected people or animals (especially parrots, cats, cattle or sheep), immediate medical evaluation is required.

Treatment & Therapy

Chlamydia is a type of bacteria that is effectively treated with antibiotics . The difficulty of treatment is diagnosing the chlamydial infection. In the genital area in particular, only rarely (from 25 to 50% of those infected) are symptoms noticed which can then be associated with chlamydia.

This fact explains the high rate of spread, because before the infected person is aware of it, other people are infected. A blood test brings clarification. In order to protect newborns from chlamydia, every expectant mother is examined for chlamydia as part of the check-ups. If necessary, approved antibiotics can also be taken during pregnancy .

Chlamydia infection takes seven to ten days to treat. The only exception to this is the antibiotic azithromycin , which works in a single dose. Conjunctivitis is also treated with an eye ointment . The treatment of chlamydia can only be successful if all potential sources of infection are avoided. In the case of C. trachomatis, this means that all sexual partners can also be examined and treated at the same time. If this does not happen, it is a matter of time before a new chlamydia infection occurs.

Outlook & Forecast

If the person affected takes part in preventive medical check-ups or consults a doctor in good time after the first symptoms of a chlamydia infection appear, there are good prospects of a full recovery without consequences. This usually occurs within a few weeks. Since the symptoms are often hardly noticed in everyday life, up to 20% of those infected suffer from the disease for many years.

According to statistics, many of those affected have had the disease for decades and do not feel any impairment of their well-being. Although the state of health does not deteriorate during this period, the pathogens are transmitted to other people through sexual contact. Sick people have an increased risk of infection. If chlamydia is only noticed late, there are usually sequelae with an uncertain outcome.

Depending on the stage of the disease, there is a possibility that infertility will occur and this condition will be irreparable. In women, there is an increased risk of scarring and adhesions in the uterus or cervix. An operation is necessary, which is often associated with permanent infertility.

If no treatment is sought, the risk of the pathogens entering the bloodstream increases. There they can lead to sepsis . This is associated with a life-threatening condition for the patient.

prevention

Chlamydia manifests itself in the form of conjunctivitis and respiratory diseases, among other things. Anyone knowingly dealing with a Chlamydia patient can take precautionary measures.

This includes measures such as thorough hand washing, the use of disposable towels, but also avoiding contact with other body secretions. General protective measures are similar to those used to prevent influenza .

Excessive caution in relation to chlamydia is not necessary. Normal daily hygiene is considered sufficient to protect against chlamydia infections as much as possible. First and foremost, protected sexual intercourse prevents genital chlamydia.

aftercare

It is important that the prescribed medication is taken regularly and in full, as recommended by the doctor. This is the only way to safely combat the infection and avoid recurrence. If this is guaranteed, the chlamydia infection usually has no consequences and does not require any further treatment. Inadequate treatment or no treatment at all can result in infertility for both men and women.

Nevertheless, aftercare should also include avoidance of the so-called “ping-pong effect”. The ping-pong effect refers to the contagion of other partners with whom sexual intercourse and intimacy has taken place. They should be informed immediately about the diagnosis of the chlamydial infection and themselves should be examined for a possible infection. It is recommended to inform all sexual partners in the last 60 days before diagnosis of the infection. In the case of an existing pregnancy, the unborn child should also be tested – there is a risk of infection.

A future regular gynecological or urological examination, as well as the use of condoms during sexual intercourse, are essential to follow-up care for chlamydia. Sexual intercourse should also be avoided during drug treatment. In the event of an unfulfilled desire to have children, women should always inform their gynecologist about the past chlamydia infection – it could be the cause.

You can do that yourself

A chlamydial infection should be treated by a doctor with antibiotics , since the infection, which usually begins with inflammation of the urethra, can otherwise quickly spread to other organs.

Chlamydia is not exclusively, but very often, transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse . Condoms can protect against infection. The widespread DK serotype of Chlamydia trachomatis mainly affects mucous membranes, not only in the genital area, but also in the mouth, throat and anus. Depending on which sexual practices are practiced, it can lead to a throat or rectal infection. Therefore, condoms should also be used for oral or anal sex.

Patients who are sexually active must assume that they have infected their partners. Sexual partners should therefore be informed about the disease so that they can be examined and take preventive measures to protect third parties. In the case of couples, both partners should always have a doctor examine them, otherwise there is a risk of a ping-pong effect, i.e. repeated mutual infection.

If the urethra is infected, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to flush out the pathogens. Women also often suffer from heavy, unpleasant-smelling discharge. Lactic acid suppositories from the pharmacy can help the vaginal flora to recover quickly and prevent secondary infections.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.