Chlamydia infection is a contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD), caused by a bacterium. This bacterium attaches itself particularly to the cervix and to the urethra of the penis. Problem is that the infection with chlamydia often remains unnoticed, as a long-term infection can lead to infertility.
Chlamydia infection is usually caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. This bacterium nestles in the mucosa of the genitals and anus. Chlamydia is highly contagious. People can get infected via unsafe sexual contact (i.e. sex without a condom). Infection with chlamydia due to oral sex is rare.
After infection, it takes one day to five weeks before the first symptoms occur. A chlamydia infection can spread throughout the body and thus cause various symptoms.
A large majority of women with chlamydia infection have no symptoms. This allows them to walk around for years with the infection without knowing that they have it. Signs and symptoms that may occur as a result of chlamydia are:
- Increased vaginal discharge.
- Chronic pain in the lower abdomen.
- A burning sensation while urinating.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Abnormal bleeding.
When the infection is not noticed in time, it can spread to the fallopian tubes. Chlamydia can cause an inflammation of the fallopian tubes, which can rise to the pelvic area. This is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). An inflammation of the fallopian tubes may be accompanied by fever and abdominal pain. When the inflammation is not treated in time, it can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancies.
Men with chlamydia often don’t notice the infection too. They may sometimes experience discharge from the penis or pain while urinating. When the anus is infected, there can be itch, pain and slimy discharge. If the infection is not treated in time it can, also in men, rise to other organs. The chlamydia bacteria can enter through the urethra and the vas deferens into the epididymis. This can lead to epididymitis. The patient often gets a painful, swollen scrotum and can also suffer from fever. Finally, chlamydia in men can cause prostatitis. An untreated inflammation may lead to infertility in men too.
A smear or urine test can be used to determine whether a person has chlamydia infection. In women the Pap test is the most reliable, in men urinalysis is reliable enough.
Antibiotics are the best medicine against chlamydia infection. When the diagnosis is made, treatment can be started. After a course of seven days, the bacteria usually have disappeared and the infection can no longer be transferred onto someone else. However, a person can get infected again.
It’s important, when an infection is established, to always inform the sexual partner(s). They should also be examined and treated, if necessary.
If complications occur, treatment is usually different and longer-lasting. Check by a specialist is necessary then.
Chlamydia infection is cured by treatment with antibiotics. This can usually prevent further complications. Once a woman develops a pelvic infection due to chlamydia or any other cause, she has up to twenty percent risk of long-term complications, such as infertility or chronic pelvic pain.
- A chlamydia infection can, like all STDs, be prevented by having safe sex. Always use a condom, even during oral sex.
- There are STD tests on the market for self-testing on chlamydia infection.
- Chlamydia is still contagious until about one week after treatment. Therefore, it’s wise not to have unprotected sex during this week.
- The term ‘chlamydia’ is derived from the Greek word chlamus (wide cape). This is because the micro-organism can be recognized by the wires, that hang around like a cape.
- The prevalence of chlamydia ranges from 0.6% in rural areas to 3.2% in big cities.
- The condition occurs particularly among people aged 15 to 35 years.
- Chlamydia infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the Western world.