Symptoms of chlamydia

Chlamydia infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) worldwide. It is caused by certain bacteria, the so-called Chlamydia trachomatis, which are passed on, especially in unprotected sex on the mucous membranes. Especially adolescents and young adults are affected – both women and men. If detected early, the infection is usually easy to treat.

The germ of every woman leads to infertility, often the immune system can cope with the pathogen without long-term damage. If detected early, the infection is usually easy to treat, antibiotic can help. Then the chlamydia infection usually heals without consequences if no permanent damage has occurred by that time.

Young girls are particularly at risk: “For anatomical reasons, they have a significantly increased risk of becoming infected with chlamydia during intercourse. Mostly the cervix is ​​infected with chlamydia first. In young women chlamydia is particularly easy to establish there. This is because the type of mucosa, which is more common in young women on the outer cervix, favors the infection. In addition, the more changing partnerships play a role: the more, the higher the risk of infection with chlamydia. In a study of girls, about one in ten seventeen-year-olds was infected with the germ, without knowing it.

Chlamydia Symptoms

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease. They are sometimes referred to as the “silent disease” because the symptoms of Chlamydia infection (Chlamydiosis) are often not directly recognizable or often absent. It can be assumed that half of the male infected and around 70 percent of the ill women are symptom-free, which contributes to a rapid spread in the population.

The Chlamydia bacteria penetrates through the mucous membranes of the organism, for example in the genitals and the urinary tract, the anal region, the pharynx, but also the respiratory tract and the eyes. The most common cause of transmission of the disease is unprotected intercourse. Because Chlamydiaceae are bacteria, Chlamydiosis usually needs to be treated with prescription antibiotics.

Symptoms of Chlamydia infection in women

In women who have become infected, symptoms may appear after about two to six weeks. Often there are no or only weak complaints. A purulent inflammation of the urethra is frequently observed, which is manifested by a strong discharge or burning sensation during urination, which can also pass into the genital area. If the bacteria have jumped on the fallopian tube, uterus or ovaries, severe abdominal pain and fever can occur. Also characteristic is an abnormal discharge, which smells strongly and has an unusual color. The monthly menstrual period can get worse, bleeding is possible. Bleeding and pain can also occur during intercourse in this disease.

Typical chlamydia symptoms in women

  • Strong discolored / smelling discharge
  • Burning while urinating
  • Itching or burning in the vaginal area
  • Pain, bleeding during intercourse
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Conjunctivitis

Symptoms of Chlamydia infection in men

Chlamydiosis is more noticeable in men than in women. Again, it comes after about two to six weeks to the onset of the first symptoms. It may be a purulent urethritis and in some cases also an inflammation of the epididymis in appearance. The urethritis is characterized by a slimy-purulent discharge on the penis tip, itching, burning and drawing pain when urinating. Swelling is possible in the area of ​​the testicles.

In both sexes, chlamydiosis can also lead to inflammation of the throat and rectum. The bacteria can also cause conjunctivitis, because a transfer can take place via water even in a shared bathroom.

Typical symptoms of chlamydia in men

  • Slimy / purulent discharge
  • Itching of the penis tip
  • Pain at sexual intercourse
  • Pain, itching or burning while urinating
  • Pain and swelling of the testicles
  • Conjunctivitis

Infection in newborns

If a pregnant woman suffers from chlamydiosis, the bacteria can be transmitted to the child during childbirth, causing conjunctivitis or pneumonia.

What if chlamydia remains untreated?

Chlamydia left untreated often has serious consequences. If no medication is prescribed for chlamydia, it can lead to purulent inflammation in the abdomen in women. This can cause the fallopian tubes to become clogged and scarred, which can be associated with infertility or a greater risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Allot of women in the world are infertile due to this disease. Infertility can also occur in men, the risk of inflammation of the prostate also increases.

Treatment of chlamydia

Against chlamydia various antibiotics act. Depending on the drug, the therapy lasts for different lengths of time. For a treatment of several days you should have no sex on the appropriate days. With the one-time therapy that applies up to seven days afterwards.
Of course, in the case of an infection, the partner should also undergo an examination – or simply be treated, because in at least half of the cases he is affected. Only if it is also treated, a renewed infection can be prevented – as long as the partnership is stable towards each other. In case of an infection ideally all partners of the past 60 days should be treated.

Chlamydia transmission and protection

Since chlamydia is located mainly on the mucous membranes of the vagina, penis or buttocks, the contact between infected and uninfected mucosa often results in transmission. But also smear infections are possible. The transmission paths are therefore mainly unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys without a condom.

There is no complete protection against chlamydia infection. But the use of condoms can greatly reduce the risk of infection.

  • You should use condoms for vaginal and anal sex – even if the penis only penetrates into the vagina or buttocks for a short time.
  • If you share sex toys with others, a new condom should be used before each passing.
  • And even with oral sex, contact with infected mucosa should be avoided. You can also use condoms or dental dams.

About the author – Dr. H.S. Hermanides
Dr. H.S. Hermanides obtained a PhD for her research on HIV in the Caribbean. She is currently working as a specialist in infectious diseases at the Red Cross Hospital in Beverwijk, The Netherlands.