Chlamydia

Description:

The only genus of the family Chlamydiaceae, including all the agents of the psittacosis-lymphogranuloma-trachoma disease groups; chlamydia are obligatory intracellular spherical or ovoid bacteria with a complex intracellular life cycle; the infective form is the elementary body, which penetrates the host cell, replicating as the rediculate body by binary fission; replication occurs in a vacuole called the inclusion body; chlamydia lack peptidoglycan in their cell walls; the type species is Chlamydia trachomitis, formerly called Betsonia. Syn: Chlamydozoon.

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman's reproductive organs.

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. In 2006, 1,030,911 chlamydial infections were reported to CDC from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Under-reporting is substantial because most people with chlamydia are not aware of their infections and do not seek testing. Also, testing is not often done if patients are treated for their symptoms. An estimated 2,291,000 non-institutionalized U.S. civilians ages 14-39 are infected with Chlamydia based on the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Women are frequently re-infected if their sex partners are not treated.

If chlamydia is left untreated, it can spread to different parts of your body and do additional damage. If chlamydia spreads to the eyes, it can cause eye infections and blindness. In women, the infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes. The infection can scar these areas and lead to infertility or an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus). If an infected mother transfers the infection to her baby, it can cause pneumonia or an eye infection that could result in blindness. In men, chlamydia can spread to the testicles and prostate. This can cause swelling, painful urination, fever and pain in the lower back.

Researchers are currently working on developing a vaccine for chlamydia as well as better diagnostic and treatment measures. There is also some exploration into the possibility of a topical microbicide that is applied to the vagina, which would help prevent transmission of chlamydia.

Symptoms:

Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease. This is because 75 percent of infected women and at least half of infected men have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they most often appear within 1 to 3 weeks of exposure. The infection first attacks the cervix and urethra. Even if the infection spreads to the uterus and fallopian tubes, some women still have no symptoms.

If you do have symptoms, you may have:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Burning when passing urine.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Low back pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Fever.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Bleeding between periods.

Men with chlamydia may have:

  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Burning when passing urine.
  • Burning and itching around the opening of the penis.
  • Pain and swelling in the testicles.

Causes and Risk factors:

As chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is transmitted (passed on) from one person to another during intimate sexual contact. You can catch chlamydia through:

  1. Having unprotected vaginal sex.
  2. Having unprotected anal sex.
  3. Having unprotected oral sex/
  4. Having genital contact with an infected partner.

You cannot catch chlamydia by using the same toilet seat as someone who is infected, and it cannot be transmitted through swimming pools or saunas.

Chlamydia can be passed from a mother to her baby during childbirth. Although no obvious symptoms are immediately apparent, the infection will often develop two weeks after birth, and can result in complications such as pneumonia.

Risk Factors: People who have multiple sex partners, or whose partners have multiple sex partners; who do not use condoms during vaginal, anal or oral sex; have a history of sexually transmitted diseases; and are under the age of 25 are at an increased risk of being infected with chlamydia. Additionally, according to some studies, women who use the birth control pill may have an increased risk of chlamydia. However, their risk of developing PID is lower.

Related: Chlamydia test for men and women

Diagnosis:

Chlamydia is easily confused with gonorrhea because the symptoms of both diseases are similar and the diseases can occur at the same time.

The most reliable ways to find out whether the infection is chlamydia are through laboratory tests.

  • A health care provider may collect a sample of fluid from the vagina or penis and send it to a laboratory that will look for the bacteria.
  • Another test looks for the bacteria in a urine sample and does not require a pelvic exam or swabbing of the penis. Results are usually available within 24 hours.

Treatment:

The mainstay of therapy for chlamydia includes appropriate antibiotic treatment -- these include: tetracyclines, azithromycin, or erythromycin. If you are diagnosed with chlamydia, you can easily be treated with antibiotics. Because many people with chlamydia also have gonorrhea, you may be prescribed a medication that can treat both STDs. The most commonly prescribed medication is azithromycin or doxycycline, either in a single dose, or over the course of 1 week. An alternate drug may be prescribed if you are pregnant or under the age of 18.

The following antibiotics may also be used: amoxicillin, ampicillin, clarithromycin, lymecycline, minocycline, ofloxacin, pivampicillin, erythromycin and rifampicin.

More than 95% of people treated for chlamydia will recover completely. However, these drugs cannot reverse any damage that the infection may have done to your body before treatment. If you have any signs of chlamydia, or if you have multiple sex partners, it is a good idea to get tested as soon as possible. Chlamydia is linked with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ectopic pregnancies in women, and sterility in men.

Because chlamydia transmission is easy, you must get your partner tested for the infection as well. It is important to abstain from sex during treatment, even if you are exhibiting no chlamydia symptoms. It is also important to complete your course of medication completely in order to recover from the infection.

Medicine and medications:

Azithromycin, Zithromax, Doxycycline, and Vibramycin.

Note: The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment. This service should be used as a supplement to, and NOT a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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