Chlamydia is a type of bacteria that can infect many living things. In humans, the chlamydial infection mainly affects the mucous membranes. The eyes, genital area and respiratory tract can retain serious disease consequences if an infection occurs.
What is Chlamydia Infection?
A distinction is made between three subspecies of chlamydia (chlamydial infection) that are relevant for 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 particularly important because it not only causes conjunctivitis, but also causes a genital disease that is widespread across Europe: chlamydial infection.
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 get this type of chlamydial infection through sexual contact.
Here, the infection occurs through unprotected traffic. The likelihood of contracting chlamydia increases with the number of sexual partners. Since many sufferers do not notice any symptoms, the spread continues. Another possible way of infection is droplet infection. All three named subspecies can be transmitted in this way. Contact with other people’s body secretions is often unintentional.
To cause conjunctivitis, contact between the bacterially colonized finger and the eye is enough. The sources of infection can also be contaminated textiles or toilets. The development of the individual immune system favors or makes the infection more difficult, even after contact with chlamydia.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
According to DigoPaul, the first symptoms of a chlamydial infection appear after a period of about two to six weeks. In women in particular, a disease with the pathogen can often be completely asymptomatic. First of all, pain and uncomfortable itching appear, caused by inflammation in the genital area.
In women and men, this inflammation can rise over time. In women, the first symptom is often an inflammation of the urethra. This manifests itself as pain when urinating, frequent urination and purulent discharge. If the inflammation continues, it can lead to inflammation of the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
This often results in an unpleasant smelling discharge. The general 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. In men, too, the infection can lead to urethritis with the corresponding symptoms.
If the inflammation continues to rise, inflammation of the epididymis and prostate follows. Children can also become infected with the pathogen during birth if their mother is ill. Possible consequences are chronic conjunctivitis, which without treatment can lead to blindness, or pneumonia.
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.
Men as well as women may experience a burning sensation and stinging sensation when urinating. The symptoms of chlamydial infection are accompanied by itching of the genitals and purulent secretions. If the infection continues in the direction of the uterus and fallopian tubes, the person may experience a fever and abdominal pain.
Untreated chlamydia in the female abdomen can lead to sticky mucous membranes as a consequence of inflammation. This makes it more difficult to transport the egg, and fertilized egg cells also nestle in the fallopian tube. Thus, infertility is a possible consequence. The likelihood of contracting the HIV virus increases due to adhesions caused by a chlamydial infection.
If a chlamydial infection is discovered and treated in good time, complications are usually not to be expected. If the infection is not treated, however, it can lead to severe abdominal infections in women. Common complications of untreated chlamydial infection are inflammation of the uterine lining and fallopian tubes.
Acute pelvic inflammation is especially problematic for women planning pregnancy. The inflammation can prevent a fertilized egg from passing through the fallopian tube into the uterus and implanting there. In severe cases, adhesions can also occur, which permanently impair fertility.
Chlamydia infection is also problematic for women who are already pregnant. Premature labor or rupture of the bladder may increase here. Premature births are also increasingly observed. If the lower urinary tract is affected, in addition to rupture of the bladder, major discomfort and burning pain when urinating are to be expected.
In men, untreated chlamydial infection quite often leads to inflammation of the urethra. The patients then suffer from a strong urge to urinate and great pain when urinating. Often there is also a slimy discharge.
Reiter’s disease is a rare complication that affects mainly young men. This is accompanied by extremely stressful 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 you experience symptoms after intercourse, you should always consult a doctor. Symptoms such as itching in the genital area, problems urinating, and skin changes indicate a chlamydial infection. For reasons of risk of infection alone, it should be diagnosed and treated immediately. Other warning signs that must be clarified are pain in the genital area or anus, unusual discharge from the vagina, or abdominal pain that occurs for no apparent reason.
A visit to the doctor is also advisable if you suddenly have intermenstrual bleeding, your menstrual period is heavier than usual, or if you notice any other changes in your menstrual flow. Medical clarification is necessary at the latest when there are symptoms of joint inflammation.
If left untreated, chlamydia can cause severe symptoms and lead, among other things, to blindness, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or premature birth and arthritis. An immediate and comprehensive diagnosis is therefore necessary in every case. If the symptoms are related to unprotected sexual intercourse or contact with potentially infected people or animals (especially parrots, cats, cattle or sheep), an immediate evaluation by the doctor is required.
Treatment & Therapy
The chlamydia bacterial species is effectively treated with antibiotics. The difficulty of treatment is diagnosing chlamydial infection. In the genital area in particular, symptoms are rarely perceived (by 25 to 50% of those infected) that 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 become infected. A blood test will provide information. In order to protect newborns from chlamydia, every expectant mother is examined for chlamydia as part of the preventive medical check-ups. If necessary, antibiotics approved during pregnancy can also be taken.
Treatment for chlamydial infection takes seven to ten days. The only exception is the antibiotic azithromycin, because it works in a single dose. A conjunctivitis is additionally provided with an eye ointment treated. 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 chlamydial infection occurs.
Outlook & forecast
If the person concerned takes part in preventive medical check-ups or see a doctor in good time after the onset of the first symptoms of a chlamydial infection, there is a good chance of a full recovery without consequences. This usually occurs within a few weeks. Since the symptoms are often barely noticed in everyday life, up to 20% of those infected suffer from the disease for many years.
According to statistics, many sufferers carry the disease for decades and feel no impairment of their well-being. Although there is no deterioration in the state of health during this time, the pathogens are transmitted to other people during sexual contact. Sick people suffer from an increased risk of infection. If the chlamydia is noticed late, sequelae usually lead to an uncertain outcome.
Depending on the stage of the disease, there is a chance that infertility will occur and this condition will be irreparable. In women, the risk of scarring and sticking of the uterus or cervix increases. Surgical intervention is necessary, which is often associated with permanent infertility.
If no treatment is used, 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.
Chlamydia express themselves in the form of conjunctivitis and respiratory diseases, among other things. Anyone who knowingly deals with a chlamydial patient can take precautionary measures.
This includes measures such as thorough hand washing, the use of disposable towels, but also avoiding contact with foreign body secretions. General protective measures are similar to those used to prevent flu illnesses.
Excessive caution with regard to chlamydia is not necessary. Normal daily hygiene is considered sufficient to protect yourself against chlamydial infections as much as possible. First and foremost, protected sexual intercourse prevents chlamydia in the genital area.
It is important that the prescribed medication is taken regularly and in full, as recommended by the doctor. This is the only way to reliably fight the infection and prevent its recurrence. If this is guaranteed, the chlamydial infection usually has no consequences and does not require any further treatment. Inadequate or no treatment 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 describes the infection of other partners with whom sexual intercourse and intimacy have been carried out. They should be informed immediately about the dianosis of the chlamydial infection and examined themselves for a possible infection. It is advisable to inform all sexual partners within the last 60 days before diagnosing the infection. In the case of an existing swan group, 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 for chlamydial follow-up care. Sexual intercourse should also be avoided during drug treatment. If women do not want to have children, they should inform their gynecologist about the past chlamydial infection – it could be the cause.
You can do that yourself
A chlamydial infection should be treated with antibiotics by a doctor, as the infection, which usually begins with an inflammation of the urethra, can otherwise spread to other organs very quickly.
Chlamydia is not exclusively, but very often, transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. Condoms can protect against infection. The widespread serotype DK of Chlamydia trachomatis mainly affects mucous membranes and 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 an inflammation of the throat or the rectum. Condoms should therefore also be used for oral or anal intercourse.
Sufferers 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 others. In the case of couples, both partners should always have a medical examination, as otherwise there is a risk of a ping-pong effect, i.e. repeated mutual contamination.
If the urethra is infected, it is important to drink plenty to flush out the pathogens. Women also often suffer from strong, unpleasant-smelling discharge. Lactic acid suppositories from the pharmacy can help the vaginal flora recover quickly and prevent secondary infections.