1. What is chlamydia?
  2. Which are the symptoms of chlamydia?
  3. How is chlamydia transmitted?
  4. Diagnosis, treatment and prevention

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. The majority of Chlamydia cases occur in women and in sexually active adolescents because the cervix’s epithelium is more sensitive to pathogens, lower levels of oestrogens make the cervical wall weaker and genital tissue is thinner and more vulnerable to trauma. About 50% of women that do not treat this infection then develop the inflammatory disease. The consequences that affect the reproductive system, especially the feminine one, can be very serious and can lead to infertility. Global rates for males are much lower compared to females.

Which are the symptoms of chlamydia?

It is important to note that the majority of male and female patients infected with chlamydia present no symptoms at all. Symptoms appear 1 to 3 weeks after contagion; in women chlamydia infects the cervix and the urethra and symptoms may include vaginal discharge with bleeding, dysuria, irritation and pelvic and abdominal pain. In men, the infection can affect the epididymis, causing pain, fever, secretion or irritation, itching and dysuria. In males, permanent damage is less likely. If transmitted through anal intercourse, chlamydia can infect the rectum and cause pain, discharge and bleeding. If transmitted through oral intercourse, it can infect the throat.

How is chlamydia transmitted?

Chlamydia is usually transmitted through any kind of sexual intercourse including vaginal, anal and oral intercourse. Pregnant women who are infected with chlamydia can transfer the infection to the baby during delivery. In the baby, the infection shows as an inflammation of the eyes and of the respiratory system.

Diagnosis, treatment and prevention

The diagnosis of chlamydia is obtained through laboratory exams of infected tissues, like the common vaginal swab, or from urine samples. Clinical tests have also been developed for those cases in which a rapid diagnosis is required to immediately start treatment. In case of positive results, it is necessary that all sexual partners are also tested to check if the bacteria is present or not.

If not treated, the infection can cause serious consequences. In women, the most common symptom is pelvic inflammation that involves the tubes, the uterus and surrounding tissues and the cicatricial restorative process after the infection can cause permanent damage with tubal occlusion, chronic pain, infertility and higher chance of extra-uterine pregnancies. Women affected by chlamydia have a higher risk of contracting the HIV virus. Since Chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics. Treatment involves the oral intake of azithromycin or tetracycline; alternatively, erythromycin or quinolone can be taken. During pregnancy, the treatment is based on the oral intake of amoxicillin, erythromycin, or clindamycin. Patients are required to abstain from sexual intercourse even after the completion of the treatment. Subjects that have been infected with chlamydia and have recovered can be infected again; therefore it is advisable that all adolescents that are positive to chlamydia undergo screening for 3-6 months following the initial test.