Chlamydia infections: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Chlamydia infections

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infectious bacterial disease worldwide. Chlamydia infection is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is also called as silent infection as in most cases the individuals remain asymptomatic but could still spread or pass on the infection to others. Chlamydia is passed from person to person through anal, vaginal or oral sex and rarely it spreads when the infected fluids come into contact with the eyes. This infection is mostly observed among younger individuals and also in individuals who have multiple sex partners, individuals who have anonymous sex partners and in individuals who involve in intercourse without proper protection. The bacterium after entering into the body attaches to the host cells and replicates inside the host cells by using the nutrients and infects the adjacent cells and tissues. The symptoms appear after 1-3 weeks of exposure or having an unprotected intercourse/sex. When the infection is not treated in the initial stages it leads to severe complications in both males and females. Generally, the treatment period is 1week to 3weeks but in some case may also extend longer. However, the health care professional might also choose a single shot of an anti-microbial based upon the condition of the infected individual.

If you experience symptoms like unusual genital discharge or discomfort and have engaged in unprotected sexual activity, it's essential to consult with a Primary Care Physician or an Infectious Disease specialist in the  Internal Medicine department to address potential Chlamydia infection.

Causes

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infectious disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. This bacterium C. trachomatis is a gram-negative anaerobe i.e, it survives in the absence of oxygen. It replicates in the eukaryotic cells (cells containing nuclei and membrane bound organelles).

Risk Factors

1.Younger individuals who are sexually active 2.Unprotected intercourse/sex 3.Individuals who have multiple sex partners 4.Individuals who have anonymous sex partners 5.Not using protection during intercourse 6.Had chlamydia infection previously 7.Pregnant women 8.Sexual activity among males or among females 9.Vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse and oral sex The bacterium C. trachomatis is transmitted due to the direct contact with the infected tissue which includes vaginal, anal and oral sex. The bacterium C. trachomatis is also transmitted from the pregnant woman to the newborn child during vaginal childbirth.

Symptoms

Chlamydia has an infectious cycle and the bacterium exists and alternates in two forms in the body: A. Elementary body (EB) - it is inactive and it is taken up by the host cells and attaches to the host cells B. Reticulate body (RB) - when EB enters into the host cell it becomes metabolically active ie. it utilises the energy sources or nutrients and replicates and forms new elementary body (EB) inside the cells and infects the surrounding cells and tissues. The bacterium C. trachomatis mostly affects the cells that are present in the outer layers of the skin and linings of certain organs like eyes, mouth, urethra, vagina and rectum When an individual is infected with chlamydia trachomatis bacterium the symptoms usually appear between 1 to 3 weeks after having an unprotected intercourse/sex with an infected individual. Whereas a few individuals remain asymptomatic or do not have any symptoms for many months eventhough they are infected and these asymptomatic individuals pass on the infection to many others. Among 70% of women remain asymptomatic. Few common symptoms in women include: 1. Pain and burning sensation during urination 2. Abnormal vaginal discharge (may or may not be foul smelling) 3. Pain in abdomen and pelvis 4. Pain during intercourse 5. Bleeding after the intercourse 6. Bleeding between the periods 7. Pain in rectum, discharge and bleeding. 8. Itching in the urethral area

Diagnosis

Diagnosing of chalmydia infection is important as it helps in preventing the furthur complications in the effected individual and prevent the spread of infection from one to another. After obtaining a proper history the health care professional might advise a few disgnostic tests which includes l Complete blood count l NAAT or PCR testing in urine sample that detects the bactrial DNA or RNA (it is genrally positive afer 2 weeks of infection) l Cervical or vaginal swab in women l Throat swab or anal swab in men and women l Pregnancy test in females as a few medications will effect the fetus. Therefore, this test helps in choosing the medication that does not affect the fetus. l Cell culture helps in detecting lower levels of Chlamydia organisms.

Treatments

When it comes to treating the infection of C. trachomatis, the major goal of the treatment is to prevent the complications that are associated with the infection. Generally, in most cases gonococcal infections(gonorrhoea) will be present along with chlamydia infections. The health care professional will be deciding to treat both or only chlamydia infection based on the incidence of gonococcal infection in a particular area. Chlamydia trachomatis infection is generally treated with various types of antimicrobials namely macrolides, tetracycline, penicillins, or quinolones. Only a health care professional will decide which type of anti-microbial should be used to treat the infection (only after knowning the allergic status of the infected individual), dose, frequency and duration of the treatment to treat the infection. Individual who is receiving the tretment should refrain from sexual activity until completion of the treatment. Once the treatment is started, after three weeks the tests shall be repeated and will be retested once again after three months to ensure the effectiveness of the therapy agaisnt the infection. The risk of infertility in women is lower if it is treated in the initial stages.

Preventive Measures

Prevention is key when it comes to tackling the widespread issue of Chlamydia. This sexually transmitted infection (STI) affects millions of people worldwide, and taking proactive steps to prevent its transmission is crucial. One of the most effective ways to prevent Chlamydia is through practicing safe sex. This means consistently and correctly using condoms during sexual intercourse, as they act as a barrier against the bacteria that causes the infection. It's important to note that while condoms can greatly reduce the risk of transmission, they are not 100% foolproof. Regular testing is another vital aspect of prevention. Getting tested for Chlamydia and other STIs on a regular basis, especially if you are sexually active or have multiple partners, can help identify any infections early on. Early detection allows for prompt treatment and reduces the chances of further spread. Education plays a significant role in prevention as well. Raising awareness about Chlamydia, its symptoms, and modes of transmission can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their sexual health. Promoting open conversations about safe sex practices and encouraging regular screenings can help combat the stigma surrounding STIs.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't 
Practice safe sex by using condoms consistently and correctly. Engage in unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners.
Get regular screenings for Chlamydia, especially if sexually active. Ignore symptoms such as unusual genital discharge or pain; seek medical attention promptly.
Communicate openly with sexual partners about STI testing and history.  Assume someone is STI-free; prioritize open and honest communication.
Complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics if diagnosed with Chlamydia.  Stop antibiotic treatment prematurely, as it may lead to incomplete eradication of the infection.


If you experience symptoms like unusual genital discharge or discomfort and have engaged in unprotected sexual activity, it's essential to consult with a Primary Care Physician or an Infectious Disease specialist in the  Internal Medicine department to address potential Chlamydia infection.

Frequently Asked Questions
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It can affect both men and women and is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Many people infected with Chlamydia don’t experience symptoms, which can make it easy to spread unknowingly. When symptoms do occur, they may include abnormal genital discharge, burning sensation during urination, pain or swelling in the testicles (in men), and abdominal pain (in women). It can also cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding if transmitted through anal sex.
Testing for Chlamydia involves a simple urine test or swabbing the affected area (urethra, cervix, rectum, or throat). Testing may also be done during routine sexual health check-ups.
Yes, Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional. It's crucial to complete the entire course of antibiotics as directed, even if symptoms disappear.
Untreated Chlamydia can lead to serious health complications. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may result in chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. In men, it can lead to complications like epididymitis (inflammation of the tubes connected to the testicles) and infertility.
Practicing safe sex by using condoms correctly and consistently can significantly reduce the risk of Chlamydia transmission. Regular testing and communication with sexual partners about STI status are also important preventive measures.
Anyone who is sexually active or has had unprotected sex should consider getting tested for Chlamydia regularly. Additionally, pregnant women are often screened as part of prenatal care since Chlamydia can be passed to newborns during childbirth.
Yes, it is possible to be re-infected with Chlamydia after successful treatment. Practicing safe sex and ensuring that sexual partners are also treated and tested can help prevent reinfection.
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