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Chlamydial Infection - Causes, Symptoms, and Management

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Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause mild to severe complications. To know more about chlamydia, continue reading this article.

Written by

Dr. Asha. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At March 22, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 22, 2023

What Is Chlamydia Infection?

Chlamydia infection is a commonly seen sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia infection can be transferred from an infected person to their partner through intercourse, oral sex, or anal sex. Even when a sex toy is contaminated with chlamydia bacteria, when shared with a sex partner, there are chances of getting this infection. However, the infection is preventable and treatable. But it is necessary to get early treatment as soon as possible because when the chlamydia infection is left untreated, it can end up in serious complications.

What Causes Chlamydia Infection?

Chlamydia infections are transmitted through sexual contact when semen or vaginal fluids containing the chlamydia-causing bacteria travel from one person to another. There are many ways in which the fluids from one person’s genitals can spread the bacteria that causes chlamydia. Sexual intercourse includes all kinds of sex, including penetrative sex, oral sex, anal sex, manual stimulation of genitals, and sex using sex toys that are infected by chlamydia bacteria can cause chlamydia infection. It is also possible for pregnant women to transmit chlamydia to their babies during delivery, causing serious eye infections or pneumonia in the newborns.

Who Can Get Genitourinary Chlamydia Infection?

Genitourinary chlamydia infection is a commonly seen sexually transmitted disease. The risk factors for this infection include the following:

  • Individuals under 25 years of age or older people.

  • Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

  • Having multiple sexual partners.

  • New sex partner.

  • Having sex with an infected person.

  • History of sexually transmitted infections.

  • Inconsistent use of condoms.

The risk of infection is more in individuals under 25 years of age, mainly in men who have sex with young males and females. Patients who have had a previous history of STI (sexually transmitted infection) should be routinely tested for re-exposure; individuals with a previous history of chlamydial infection have a high risk of re-infection and should be tested every three months after treatment is complete.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia Infections?

During the initial or early stage of Chlamydia trachomatis infections, an individual may have no signs and symptoms. Even if the signs and symptoms persist, they will often be mild, so it is overlooked by most individuals. It affects both men and women, and the symptoms vary according to the sex of the individual.

1). Symptoms of Chlamydia in Females:

Chlamydia infection in females often causes symptoms that are similar to urinary tract infection or cervicitis.

  • Pus discharge in the urine (pyuria).
  • Frequent urination.
  • White, gray, or yellow discharge from the vagina.
  • Smelly vaginal discharge.
  • Pain or a burning sensation while urinating.
  • Bleeding in between periods.
  • Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia).
  • Pain during periods (dysmenorrhea).
  • Itching around the vaginal area.
  • Dull pain in the lower part of the abdomen.

2). Symptoms of Chlamydia in Males:

Bacterias that cause chlamydia most often infect the urethra. They cause symptoms similar to nongonococcal urethritis.

  • Clear or mucus-like, watery discharge from the penis.

  • Testicular pain.

  • Burning sensation or pain during urinating.

3). Common Symptoms in Men and Women:

Chlamydia infection can affect other parts of the body, such as:

  • Anus - Discomfort, pain, mucus-like discharge, or bleeding from the anus.

  • Throat - Few individuals may experience a sore throat, but this symptom will not be noticed if the bacteria is not in the throat.

  • Eyes - The symptoms of conjunctivitis will be present if C. trachomatis bacteria gets in the eye. Redness, pain, and discharge are common symptoms experienced in the eyes.

What Are the Diagnostic Tests Required for the Confirmation of Chlamydia?

In symptomatic individuals with chlamydia infection, the findings on examination may include abnormal vaginal discharge, urethral discharge, cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), bleeding after intercourse, rectal discharge, and tenderness on bimanual examination. These symptoms are also common in other sexually transmitted infections, so laboratory tests are required to confirm chlamydial infections.

Diagnostic tests for men with suspected genitourinary chlamydia infection may include:

  • Urine Test: First void morning urine is analyzed.

  • Urethral Swab: The doctor may insert a slim swab into the end of the penis to collect a sample from the urethra. In a few cases, the doctors will swab the anus as well.

Diagnostic tests for women with suspected genitourinary chlamydia infection may include:

  • Vulvovaginal Swab: The doctor takes a swab of the discharge from the cervix for antigen testing for chlamydia or for culture. A swab test can be done along with a routine pap test. Some women swab their vaginas themselves, and even this test shows similar results as doctor-obtained swabs.

  • Urine Test: A urine sample is not often recommended in women because of the high bacterial load in urine when compared to men.

Other tests done for both sexes:

  • Swab Test - Pharyngeal and rectal swabs can be taken by a clinician. Examination of the rectum (proctoscopy) should be performed if the patients have rectal symptoms.

  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests: Nucleic acid amplification test for chlamydia (NAATs) is often combined with tests for Trichomonas vaginalis (trichomoniasis) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea).

  • Enzyme Immunoassays (EIA): A biological sample is tested to see if a target protein is present using an enzyme immunoassay.

What Is the Treatment for Chlamydia?

Chlamydia infection can be treated with antibiotics within a week or two. The medications should not be stopped when the symptoms get better. Ask the doctor about follow-up if needed and make sure the infection is gone after finishing the therapy. As a part of treatment, one should also avoid sexual activities that might cause re-infection and make sure that the sexual partners, if infected, also get treatment. The most common antibiotics used to treat chlamydia infection are as follows:

  • A single dose of Azithromycin followed by proof of cure testing.

  • Doxycycline 100 milligrams twice daily for seven days.

What Are the Complications of Chlamydia?

Complications associated with chlamydia are as follows:

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - PID is an infection of the female reproductive organ that causes fever and pelvic pain.

  • Epididymitis - A chlamydia infection can cause inflammation of the testicle. The infection can cause fever, swelling, and scrotal pain.

  • Infertility - Chlamydia infections can cause obstruction and scarring in the fallopian tubes, resulting in infertility in women.

  • Reactive Arthritis - It can cause swelling of the joints leading to severe pain.

  • Prostate Gland Infection - Prostatitis can cause fever, chills, pain during or after sex, and painful urination.

Conclusion:

Chlamydia is an infection transmitted through sexual contact. It can affect both males and females. It often does not cause severe symptoms in the early stages. However, it can cause many symptoms later on, which should require proper treatment. If the infection is not treated, it can lead to infertility. So consult a doctor if any symptoms of chlamydia arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How Long Does Chlamydia Last Before It Affects an Individual?

Chlamydia is an infection that has the potential to spread throughout the body. A chlamydia infection can linger for years if left untreated and if it is not discovered. Years of untreated chlamydia infection increase the risk of significant consequences such as pelvic inflammatory disease and other infections. Since every person is unique, it is impossible to say how long a chlamydia infection must stay in the body in order to result in infertility. However, from weeks to two years are possible, a chlamydia infection can last before it affects the individual.

2.

How Long Before Chlamydia Symptoms Appear?

Chlamydia symptoms often appear one week to three months following unprotected sex. However, it can take more time than three months. They may not appear for several months in some people. Moreover, in some people, after a few days, the symptoms may occasionally go away.

3.

How May Chlamydia Be Treated Without Visiting a Doctor?

Most persons with chlamydia do not exhibit any symptoms at all. Because of this, getting tested is the only way to determine if one has chlamydia. Only antibiotic treatment will effectively treat chlamydia. While some home cures for chlamydia may provide temporary symptom relief, they cannot treat the infection. One can prevent major complications with prompt treatment

4.

How Can One Contract Chlamydia Without Being Sexually Active?

Chlamydia is most commonly contracted during vaginal and anal sex, although it can also be transmitted through oral sex. Apart from sexual contact, giving birth to a child is the only way that a pregnant person can transmit chlamydia to another person.

5.

How Long After Treatment Will Someone Still Test Positive for Chlamydia?

Chlamydia should disappear following therapy in a week or two, although the test may still test positive for four weeks after treatment. By 30 days after receiving a single dose of chlamydia medication, both pregnant and non-pregnant women should test negative for vaginal chlamydia nucleic acid amplification test.

6.

How Long Before Chlamydia Symptoms Resolve?

Chlamydia should disappear after therapy in a week or two. The chlamydia infection can clear up one to three weeks after one starts taking antibiotics. Asymptomatic chlamydia infection, however, can persist for years and lead to various complications as well as the transmission of the infection to others.

7.

How Does the Odor of Discharge in Chlamydia Be?

Chlamydia discharge typically smells very bad. Some people claim that the smell of chlamydia discharge is fishy or comparable to the smell of pus.

8.

What Does the Discharge in Chlamydia Look Like?

Chlamydia bacteria symptoms might resemble cervicitis or a urinary tract infection (UTI). One can detect a foul, white, yellow, or gray discharge coming from the vagina and pus in the urine.

9.

What Happens When Chlamydia Is Not Treated?

Chlamydia can induce pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can result in persistent discomfort and infertility if left untreated. Untreated chlamydia in males can result in enlargement and pain in one or both testicles.

10.

After Using Azithromycin, How Long Does It Take for Chlamydia to Resolve?

A chlamydial infection takes about a week to entirely clear after taking Azithromycin, and in some situations, it might take up to two weeks. The patient must refrain from having sex during treatment or until the infection has cleaned up during these two weeks. Because they run the risk of spreading it to someone else, they might want to be sure it is entirely treated.

11.

How Well Does Doxycycline Treat Chlamydia?

Azithromycin is not as successful at treating rectal chlamydia as Doxycycline is. The effects of Doxycycline might be felt as soon as two hours after taking it. However, it could take up to 24 to 48 hours to start feeling the effects, depending on the infection one has. Although Doxycycline normally takes one to two weeks to completely clear an infection, certain infections can take up to two months.

12.

How Long May Chlamydia Remain Untreated?

A chlamydia infection can linger for years if left untreated or undetected. Chlamydia can remain undetected in the body for weeks, months, or even years if one does not get tested or get treatment from a doctor.
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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases

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