Chlamydia is a bacterial infection commonly passed from one person to another through unprotected sex and is mostly rampant among sexually active teenagers and young adults. It is caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis and is often called the “silent infection” because most people do not realize they have it.
How chlamydia occurs
This refers to the pathophysiology of chlamydia. First of all, chlamydia does not have enough of its own nutrients to live on therefore it attacks its host cells for survival. It lives inside the host cell in order to survive and reproduce. First of all the bacterium enters the body and is detected as an elementary body by the white blood cells. The white blood cells being the warrior cells (note this is not a scientific term but my way of emphasis) they are designed to attack the elementary body by eating it up via a process known as phagocytosis and then it becomes a phagosome (the eaten up element). Upon entry, the chlamydia cell acts quickly before the white cell has enough time to destroy it. It quickly uses the little energy it has to transform into a reticulate (meaning star shaped) body. The reticulate body reproduce further through binary fission and as it reproduces it uses energy from the nucleus of the white blood cells slowly weakening the big guy (referring to the white blood cells) and in addition to the reticulate body the elementary bodies which are the infectious form of chlamydia also form. The white blood cell finally dies and burst open releasing the elementary bodies which are ready to be picked up by another white blood cell and the process re-occurs over and over again.
Chlamydia can also be passed through unprotected oral or vaginal sex or even through contact with infected genital fluids-this means that even without sexual penetration it is possible to get the infection as long a person’s genitals come into contact with an infected person's genitals. There is also the risk of infection when infected semen or vaginal fluid come into contact with the eyes. Chlamydia can also be passed from a pregnant mother to her baby.
Eye infection (trachoma conjunctivitis) caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis
The image on the right shows a newly born baby infected with bacterial conjunctivitis. This may develop as they pass through the birth canal if the mother is infected.
Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.
NB: Most people with chlamydia do not notice any symptoms and don’t even know that they have it.
Symptoms vary between men and women.
In women, it can affect the cervix and spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes causing PID, chronic pelvic pain, pregnancy in fallopian tubes and infertility. During pregnancy, it may be passed to the baby causing lung or eye infections.
• Pain or a burning feeling when urinating
• Unusual discharge from the vagina
• Pain in the tummy may be felt in the lower abdominal pain
• Bleeding during or after sex
• Bleeding between periods
unusual discharge from the vagina
In men, chlamydia infects the urethra and may spread to the epididymis ( the tube that carries sperms from testicles) causing pain. In men symptoms include:
• Discharge from penis
• Discomfort when urinating
• Swollen and sore testes
Testing for chlamydia
It is easily diagnosed through a urine test or alternatively a cotton swab used to test for chlamydia from vagina, cervix, anus or penis. Specimen is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Chlamydia is easily treated through taking antibiotics. Medication may last between one to seven days depending on the doctor’s advice. Also, it is important to ensure that you and your partner do not have sex until both of you have finished treatment. Upon discovery of the disease, it is important that both you and all sexual partners that you have had in the last six months be tested and treated in order to control the spread of the disease.
Prevention of chlamydia
As a sexually active person you can personally prevent spread of chlamydia through:
• Using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
• Using a condom to cover the penis during oral sex
• Using a dam-thin soft plastic or latex to cover female genitals during oral sex
• Not sharing sex toys
NB: It is recommended that a person goes for check-up annually just to be safe especially if you are at high risk of contracting the infection.
Chlamydia (2015, October, 6) NHS Choices. Gov.Uk. Removed from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chlamydia/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Chlamydia. (2015, September, 1) Better Health Channel c 2015 State Government of Victoria. Removed from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/chlamydia
Chlamydia (2014, November, 6) Medline Plus. U.S National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001345.htm
Chlamydia most prevalent sexually transmitted infection across Europe; rates of gonorrhea and syphilis increasing (2013, September, 4) c 2015 European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Removed from: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/press/news/_layouts/forms/News_DispForm.aspx?List=8db7286c-fe2d-476c-9133-18ff4cb1b568&ID=858
Narayan. R (25 April 25) Pathophysiology of Chlamydia [YouTube] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XzFHXXJc8w