FACTS ABOUT CHLAMYDIA
• It is one of the most common STI in the world.
• It is curable.
• It can affect both men and women and symptoms may differ between both.
• It spreads and presents symptoms similar to gonorrhea.
• About 80% of women with this infection are asymptomatic.
• The U.S records over 200,000 cases annually.
• It can only be spread through direct person to person contact.
• One can be re-infected.
• It can be prevented.
• About 4.2% of women and 2.7% of men are infected worldwide. In 2015, close to 61 million new cases occurred globally. Meanwhile, in the United States, about 1.4 million cases were reported in 2014.
• In 2015 chlamydia infections caused about 200 deaths.
Let’s walk through the journey of how Chlamydia gets to be the commonest among all STI in the US. It is the commonest reported STI among teens and young adults because of the increased rate of sexual activities among them. This article seeks to educate us on what? how? why? and who the disease can affect?
WHAT IS CHLAMYDIA?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection, mostly caused by the Chlamydia Microbe Trachomatis bacterium. Its name is so derived from the term trachoma, given to an eye infection caused by this bacterium. It affects both men and women equally yet, women can remain asymptomatic for a long time. For this reason, it is known as the ‘silent’ disease.
Chlamydia trachomatis usually affects the cervix, rectum, or throat in women. Men can get the infection in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.
Chlamydia infection is very similar to gonorrhea infection in its mode of spread as well as presenting symptoms. Also, there is a higher risk of co-infection with gonorrhea once a patient has chlamydia. It takes about a few weeks after infection for symptoms to unveil.
Chlamydia isn’t difficult to treat once diagnosed. If left untreated it can lead to severe complications.
How Chlamydia Spreads?
The bacterium is an intracellular organism, thus, it can only live outside the body within seconds to a minute. It occurs only in humans. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 15-25. The bacterium has the ability to develop a very long term relationship with its human host cells. The bacteria feeds on the host cell’s nutrients, since it’s not powerful enough to carry its own nutrients.
Thus, when there are not enough nutrients in the host cells, there is a negative consequences on the bacteria growth. Cell division comes to a halt whiles the bacterium becomes inactive. On the other hand, when conditions of the host cells return to normal, the bacterium becomes viable again.
Bacteria enters the body through;
- Sexual activity (i.e oral sex, anal sex or vaginal sex).
- Infected mother to a baby through pregnancy or childbirth process.
- Direct body contact (when an infected person probably scratches the genitals and touches the eye afterward)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CHLAMYDIA?
As mentioned earlier, though both men and women are affected similarly, the symptoms vary in each group of people.
In men, symptoms include;
- Dysuria: pain on urination.
- Dyspareunia: Painful sexual intercourse.
- Creamy discharge from the penis.
- Dysarthria: Pain in the joints.
- Testicular pain.
In women, about 80% of patients remain asymptomatic for a very long time though they remain infectious. The infection usually involves the cervix and the urethra, and then ascends upwards. Symptoms include;
- Vaginal discharge.
- Dysuria: pain on urination.
- Inter menstrual or postcoital bleeding. That is bleeding in between one’s menstrual cycle and after sex.
- Dyspareunia: Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Lower abdominal pain.
- Dysarthria: Pain in the joints.
In infants, symptoms may present in variant forms;
- Conjunctivitis (presents at 1-2 weeks).
- Eye discharge with/without swelling.
- Pneumonia (presents at 1-3 months).
In the infected mother during pregnancy;
- Bilaterally infected conjunctiva.
- Mucopurulent discharge from the eyes.
- Spontaneous abortion.
HOW IS CHLAMYDIA DIAGNOSED?
Confirmation is not by symptoms only, but by a series of tests. The following are some of the tests done to confirm the infection.
- Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT): it is very specific and sensitive. Thus, gives room for no false- positives or false- negatives.
- Urinalysis or swab of the cervix, vagina, or urethra.
- Gram staining: Usually it is quite hard to view the bacterium because they are intracellular organisms. Therefore, hiding within the host cell.
- Cell culture: This test is done to get a conclusive diagnosis. It also helps to know the best antibiotic to use. The disadvantage is how long it takes to complete.
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATONS OF CHLAMYDIA?
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): The clinical features include dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse) and lower abdominal pain. Unlike men, women have an opening through the Fallopian tube to be abdominal region. Hence, chlamydia infection can spread to the abdominal region.
- Ectopic pregnancy.
- Sterility in males.
- Ovarian cancer.
- Cervicitis: Inflammation of the cervix.
- Urethritis: Inflammation of the urethra.
- Vaginitis: Inflammation of the vagina.
- Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate.
- Conjunctivitis: Inflammation of the conjunctiva.
- Trachoma: Decreasing opacity of the pupil.
- Reactive Arthritis: As formally known as Reiters syndrome, this occurs as a result of the antibodies made in response to the chlamydia infection. The antibodies cross react innocent human cells mistaken, and as such, attacks them instead of chlamydia bacteria.Reactive arthritis commonly presents a triad of inflammation of large joints, conjunctivitis or uveitis and urethritis (men) or cervicitis (women).
• Herpes Simplex.
• Afebrile Pneumonia.
WHO IS AT RISK OF CHLAMYDIA INFECTION?
- Those who engage in unprotected sex.
- Individuals who have sex with multiple partners or with partners who have other sex partners.
- Persons infected with other STIs especially HIV or gonorrhea.
How to reduce the risk of acquiring chlamydia
- Regular and correct use of condoms.
- Avoid unsafe sexual practices with multiple sex partners or with partners who have other sex partners.
- Patients diagnosed with chlamydia should avoid sexual contact with others until fully treated.
- Getting tested regularly.
- Screening of all pregnant women for the disease.
CAN CHLAMYDIA BE CURED?
Yes, it can be cured. Chlamydia trichomatis infection can be treated with antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics includes; Azithromycin, doxycycline, erythromycin, levofloxacin. erythromycin and amoxicillin are safer for pregnant women.
Following treatment, individuals should be tested again after three months to check for reinfection.