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CHLAMYDIA DISEASE

 

Chlamydia is one of the most wide-spread sexually transmitted diseases in the world. It is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, which is found solely in the human body. The word Chlamydia comes from the Greek word χλαμύδα meaning “cloak“, which is reflective of the nature of the disease. Namely, Chlamydia is known as the “silent disease”, meaning that it rarely manifests itself by the presence of symptoms. Only 70 – 80 % of women and 50 % of men detect Chlamydia-related symptoms.

Chlamydia is transmitted via unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sexual intercourse, that is, through bodily fluids. Moreover, an infected mother may transmit the disease to her child during pregnancy or childbirth. It may also be spread to the throat or the eye by hand or contact with infected bodily fluids. Contrary to popular misconception, Chlamydia is not transmitted by kissing, toilet seats, bed linens, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, sharing clothes or eating utensils. The risks of transmission are greatly enhanced owing to the absence of symptoms or promiscuous behavior.

The incubation period lasts 7 – 21 days and the first symptoms normally appear in one to three weeks following the infection.


The symptoms in women, although rare in occurrence, include: unusual vaginal discharge, which may be yellow in color or with an unpleasant odor, bleeding during or after intercourse, lower abdomen pain, painful or burning sensation during urination, inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis). In men, who are more likely to spot an infection, the symptoms are the following: painful or burning sensation during urination, watery, cloudy or white penile discharge, an itching sensation on the penis tip, swelling of the testicles, inflammation of the urethra (urethritis). Both sexes may experience rectal discharge and bleeding or if the infection has spread to the eyes, symptoms similar to conjunctivitis (swelling, redness, eye discharge).

The complications of long-lasting Chlamydia are abundant. Women may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy or infertility. Men may develop epididymitis, Reiter’s syndrome and also increase the risk of infertility. In rare occurrences, both sexes may develop the Lymphogranuloma venereum or the Fitz-Hugh-Curtis Syndrome, which will be discussed in the later chapters.

Chlamydia is treated fairly easily, usually with a single or a weekly dose of antibiotics. Patients are advised to abstain from sex during the treatment period and one week following the completion of the therapy. The therapy is effective only if the patient does not miss a single dose and if he/she abstains from sex throughout the duration of the therapy. Both partners should be tested for the presence of the disease, since the risk of reinfection is high if the disease is left untreated in one partner. Tests are retaken approximately three months after the treatment.

Chlamydia may be prevented by avoiding frequent change of sexual partners and by use of condoms or other forms of protection. For sexually active persons aged under 25 annual Chlamydia screenings are an absolute must, since they have a crucial role in disease prevention.



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