Chlamydia is one of the bacteria that attack cells of our body. In those it further multiplies, until finally infected cells die. In humans the bacteria can cause number of diseases, such as conjunctivitis, infections of urinary tract or lungs, and other. Chlamydial infections, mainly sexually transmitted, are nowadays among the most common diseases in general. Chlamydia that causes infections of the genital tract is called Chlamydia trachomatis; other chlamydias are for example Chlamydia psittaci or Chlamydia pneumonieae. Chlamydia gets into the body through sexual contact, but airborne transmission or vertical from mother to child during childbirth are also possible. Eye forms of the infection are transmitted through infected towels or bed linen.
Symptoms of Chlamydial Infection
Chlamydial infection may be either symptomless, or it manifests symptoms according to disease type. Common are fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain and headache. Sometimes, increased secretion or bleeding from infected mucous membranes can be present. Most often Chlamydia infects urogenital tract of both men and women.
Chlamydia trachomatis, as already mentioned in the introduction, is the most common sexually transmitted pathogen in the world. It causes mainly diseases of the urogenital tract, less often also conjunctivitis. In case of urogenital infection, the patient becomes infected during sexual intercourse with infected person. Incidence of this disease is higher than incidence of other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis or gonorrhea. It affects mostly young people aged 15-30 years. Chlamydial infection can have serious consequences, although its course is often asymptomatic. In men, inflammation of the urethra occurs; less often the inflammation spreads to testes or epididymis with the risk of later infertility. The inflammation is manifested by pain during urination or burning in the urethra; sometimes it may be associated with general signs of inflammation such as fatigue and joint pain. In women, the disease manifests by moderate vaginal discharge or pain in the lower abdomen. If untreated, it can cause severe pelvic inflammation including inflammation of the cervix, endometrium or worst fallopian tubes and ovaries with the risk of infertility. However, the infection in women is quite often asymptomatic. In both men and women, the disease can affect also joints or mucous membranes of the genital area in the form of so-called lymphogranuloma venereum. Lymphogranuloma venereum are small sores on the external genitals and swelling of the lymph nodes in the area.
As already mentioned, Chlamydia trachomatis infects also the eye in the form of conjunctivitis. In this form of the disease, there is cutting and burning in the eyes, often followed by scarring of the cornea and eyelids (called trachoma). If untreated, chlamydial infection of the eyes can lead to blindness. Eye form of chlamydial infection is quite common in newborns that have been infected during childbirth from their mothers.
Chlamydia pneumoniae is the agent responsible for chlamydial infections of the lungs and airways in general. Chlamydia pneumoniae is the most common type of Chlamydia in the human population. Its transmission is mostly airborne, during coughing or sneezing. It causes inflammation of the pharynx, bronchi and lungs. Patients suffer from dry and irritating cough, sore throat, hoarseness, and high fever. Also this form of chlamydial infection can be transmitted to a newborn child during childbirth.
Chlamydia psittaci causes infections of birds and mammals, but it is transferable also to humans whom it causes a disease called psittacosis, or parrot disease. The bacterium is extremely resistant to desiccation and can long survive in bird droppings, which is very important for infection transmission. Typically, a person is infected by inhalation of contaminated dust from the excrements of infected birds. Psittacosis is the most common so-called atypical pneumonia. Symptoms are usually mild, resembling a common cold. On the other hand, enlargement of the liver, spleen, nausea or diarrhea can be found, too.
Diagnosis of Chlamydia
Chlamydial infections are mostly diagnosed by blood serology testing or by testing of smear from the infected mucosa, in the case of sexual infection by smear from the urethra or cervix.
Treatment for Chlamydia
If you suspect you have this infection, you need to consult a doctor immediately. Antibiotics are efficient in the treatment of chlamydia, mainly doxycycline or azithromycin are used for at least 10 days. Sexual abstinence is also recommended during the treatment; to prevent reinfection sexual partners should be treated simultaneously.
Prevention of Chlamydia
The most reliable prevention of genitourinary system infection by Chlamydia is partner faithfulness and safe sex principles, same as for the other sexually transmitted diseases. It is also advisable to avoid using common towels and bed linen.