Chlamydia is one of the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection, but how serious is Chlamydia?
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT..
Most people are aware of Chlamydia, and most people know that it is an STD. But how much do you really know about it, and how to treat it. The scary part of Chlamydia is that it is ‘silent’ and most people don’t even realise they have it. But if it is left untreated, it can have devastating long term effects on a person’s health and quality of life.
Table of Contents
1. What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydia Trachomatis. The bacterium is small like a virus and requires a microscope in order to be seen.
In order for Chlamydia Trachomatis to reproduce, it requires biochemical mechanisms of another cell. However, the bacteria also cause other types of infections which include Trachoma, non-specific urethritis, and psittacosis.
In most cases, Chlamydia is spread through sexual intercourse. Ejaculation does not have to occur for one to be infected with Chlamydia because it is also spread through contact alone. The disease can infect both men and women who are sexually active
2. Chlamydia: The Silent Infection
Most of the research shows that a patient could be infected or pass the infection to another person without their knowledge. Chlamydia is frequently referred to as “The Silent Infection” because one might get infected without having any symptoms.
In the early stages, Chlamydia patients do not experience outward symptoms. There is no particular age group which gets infected by Chlamydia, men, and women of all ages are vulnerable to the infection but the most common age group is 25 years and below. As a sexually transmitted disease, one is more liable to being infected with the bacteria if he or she engage in unprotected sex, have more than one sexual partner.
3. The History of Chlamydia
Chlamydia trachomatis was first discovered in 1907 by a scientist known as Stanislaus von Prowazek in Berlin, Germany. The name Chlamydia was derived from a Greek word, ‘Chlamys’ which means cloak whereas, ‘trachomatis’ means rough or harsh. It was discovered that 50-70 percent of women and 50 percent of men get infected by Chlamydia worldwide.
In 1995 it was discovered that Chlamydia can also cause blindness after 15 percent of blindness cases was reported worldwide. The eye infection known as Chlamydia conjunctivitis is spread by sharing towels, coughing aimlessly, sneezing, eye-seeking flies and rubbing fingers from eye to eye. The Chlamydia eye infection can affect newborn babies who acquire it at birth. In 2002 a drop in the cases of Chlamydia conjunctivitis was reported.
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.K. Two hundred thousand people who were diagnosed with Chlamydia in 2013 came from England. Also, one million, four hundred and one thousand, nine hundred and six come from fifty countries in the United States and Columbia. A sum of 2.86 million infections occurs annually.
Over the years, reports of the infection of about 20 50 per cent of people go untreated for more than one year. In 2009 there were 219,570 new cases of Chlamydia that were reported in Britain, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in such country. Two thirds of these patients were accounted to be aged between 15-24 years. This is the same year that reported a 7 per cent increase of Chlamydia infection cases all over the world. In 2010, two hundred and fifteen million people were reported to be infected with Chlamydia.
4. Chlamydia in Men
About 25% – 50% of Chlamydia in men goes unnoticed. This is major because the symptoms tend to be infrequent and random causing confusion to the infected person.
If not given the right medication, Chlamydia in men can spread to the testicles causing Epididymitis, a condition that leads to infertility if untreated within six to eight weeks. It may also cause scarring in the reproductive path. Chlamydia is a rare infection for men although infected persons have high chance of getting being infected with the HIV virus.
Various cases of this infection in men have reported three times the level of DNA fragmentation in sperm which causes the genetic material to become vulnerable to breakage. Men who are infected with Chlamydia may experience low sperm production and are more likely to experience conditions such as urethritis, reactive arthritis, and conjunctivitis. Also, men who are faced by this infection produce sperm with 80 per cent more physical abnormalities and 10 percent less mobility than men who are not infected.
5. Symptoms of Chlamydia in Men
The most common symptom of Chlamydia among men is inflammation of the urethra. Although it is hard to spot the symptoms, the symptoms may appear within one to three weeks of initial disclosure. Symptoms in men are not limited to the genital areas as they may also occur around the eyes throat and rectum depending on how it has been transmitted. Listed below are the symptoms of Chlamydia in men.
- Unusual white watery discharge from the tip of the penis.
- An unpleasant burning sensation when urinating.
- Pain and swelling of the testicles
- Rectal pain, discharge and bleeding.
- Infection in the eye.
- Infection in the throat.
6. Diagnosing Chlamydia in Men
The best way for a man to find out if he is infected with Chlamydia is by running tests for STI’s immediately when he has had unprotected sexual intercourse with a new partner or with someone he has doubt. Homosexuals are also advised to undergo screening for rectal chlamydial infection. A Chlamydia test can be taken even if you are not displaying any observable symptoms.
Alternatively, a Chlamydia test kit may be offered at the hospital for you to carry out the test on your own. These tests have become common in universities and most youth clubs because of high cases of the infection being reported among the age group of 16 to 25 years.
For a Chlamydia test to be carried out, you need to provide a urine sample which will be tested for the presence of Chlamydia organism. Men who practice oral and anal sex will also have to get their throats and rectum tested.You may also need to take a general test in order to rule out gonorrhea because the symptoms of gonorrhea and Chlamydia are similar.
7. Treatment of Chlamydia infection in Men
When diagnosed with Chlamydia, both you and your partner must be treated thoroughly using antibiotics. Early treatment of Chlamydia prevents re-infection. Several antibiotics can get rid of Chlamydia infection within a week or two. During treatment, the patient is asked to abstain from sex until seven days after completing the dose of antibiotics. Apart from re-infection, untreated cases of Chlamydia can lead to more serious health hazards such as;
- Infection of the prostate gland.
- Narrowing of the urethra due to swelling of the testicles.(Stricture)
- Infection and pain near the testicles.
After being diagnosed with it, a single dose of Azithromycin is prescribed to eliminate the infection. However, patients who are allergic to standard antibiotics will be given alternative antibiotics. For chlamydial urethritis, various antibiotics are administered; Doxycycline, azithromycin, ofloxacin and erythromycin. The dosage will be prescribed for a period of five to ten days.
8. Chlamydia in Women
Chlamydia is known to seriously damage an infected woman’s reproductive organ. A high number of women aged between 15 25 years fall victim to Chlamydia infection. Just like in men, symptoms of Chlamydia are seldom seen in infected women. If left untreated it can also cause infertility in a woman. Chlamydia can also cause infections to the eyes, throat, uterus, Fallopian tubes and lungs of a woman if left untreated.
Chlamydia infection rates are usually on the high among young women. This is because their undeveloped cervical cells are vulnerable to infection but older age is also not protected.
Chlamydia in women is highly transmitted through oral, anal and vaginal sex with an infected person. In cases where the infection spreads to the uterus and Fallopian tubes, Chlamydia causes an inflammatory disease commonly known as Pelvic Inflammatory which comes with intense pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, and nausea between periods. For a pregnant woman, the infection can be passed to the baby during birth leading to lungs and eye infections.
The infection also causes early or premature delivery in pregnant women. Studies show that 18 to 44 percent of infants born to women with untreated Chlamydia infections are likely to be infected with Chlamydia conjunctivitis, and 3 to 16 percent of infants are infected with Chlamydia pneumonia.
9. Symptoms of Chlamydia in Women
It has been reported that only 30 per cent of female Chlamydia patients notice the signs of the infection. This is because the symptoms usually start to show three weeks after exposure. Its symptoms are as follows;
- Changes in vaginal discharge. This symptom is usually caused by infection of the uterine cervix and is the most obvious symptom of Chlamydia among women. The discharge is usually milky or white in color.
- Burning sensation especially when urinating. Chlamydia bacteria infect the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection which causes pain during urination. It also leads to a sudden effect of urinating frequently.
- Pain and bleeding during sex
- Bleeding between periods.
- Nausea or fever.
- Abdominal lower back pain.
- Heavy feeling around the hips.
- Anal pains. – In cases where a woman practices anal sex, discharge, pain, and bleeding from the anus could be experienced.
10. Diagnosis of Chlamydia in Women
Chlamydia is easily diagnosed in women because tests are painless and involve simple urine tests. For a Chlamydia test to be carried out, you need to provide a urine sample which will be tested for the presence of the Chlamydia organism.
During a Chlamydia test in women an acid amplification test is carried out by your health care provider which involves an examination of the pelvis. The results may take one to two days for outcome. You can also test for other types of sexually transmitted infections such as; gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis, herpes and HIV/AIDS. Women who are prone to have this infection are aged under 25 years and frequently change their sexual partners.
Doctors recommend that all sexually active women aged 25 and younger should get screened for Chlamydia once every year. Older women who are fond of having multiple sexual partners are also encouraged to undergo such screening.
11. Treatment of Chlamydia in Women
After being diagnosed with Chlamydia, a patient is advised to ensure their partners also take a test. In women, Chlamydia is also treated with an antibiotic. However, pregnant women are not advised to take this antibiotic as they may have common side effects such as stomach upsets and diarrhea.
Partners are advised to take the full dose of antibiotics even if they have no symptoms to prevent re-infection. Treatment of gonorrhea is indeed given at the same time because it has similar symptoms. If the treatment if offered in the right way; the infection can be cured within a week. Women are advised not to engage in sexual intercourse until seven days after treatment.
Pregnant women are recommended to use erythromycin and amoxicillin to treat the infection instead of using azithromycin and ofloxacin which are the commonly prescribed drugs.
12. Prevention of Chlamydia
This can be prevented by:
- Practicing safe sex by using condoms. However, proper use of condoms during sexual intercourse reduces the chances; but does not eliminate the risk of totally getting infected.
- Taking often tests after having unprotected sexual relations.
- Making sure your partner is also treated.
- Finishing your antibiotics to prevent reoccurrence.
- Always avoid douching as it decreases the number of good bacteria present in the female sex organs.
The best way of preventing Chlamydia is by ensuring safe sex and avoids using same-sex toys. Chlamydia can also be passed from an infected person through casual contact like kissing, hugging, sharing towels, sharing bathrooms, swimming pools, toilet seats and cutlery. If it does not get proper treatment it may become a serious case because the infection spreads to other parts of the body, and can lead to long-term problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women and epidydimo-critis in men.
It can also cause infertility and reactive arthritis. Chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease in the world. Although many have dismissed it as a disease without a history, Chlamydia has a history in two main senses recognized medically. Any species belonging to the bacteria family can cause infection of this which is found only in human.
One million individuals from the United States have been reported to suffer the infections. The infection occurs inside human cells and is cured with antibiotics.
Apart from being a genital disease it also affects the eye, throat, and joints. Chlamydia trachomatis is known to cause an infection in the lymph nodes and lymphatic’s whose symptoms are swollen lymph nodes in the groin and other parts, genital peeling and also an inflated groin. Having had an infection of any STI’s in the past makes one more vulnerable of getting infected with this. The same factor applies to any rape victims.
Even after treatment, the patients suffering from this may get re-infected if they have sexual contact with a person who is still facing similar effect. Young people who engage in sexual relations are at a high risk of contracting Chlamydia because of behavioral, biological and cultural reasons.
Get yourself educated and get yourself checked.
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/
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