Chlamydia are bacteria of the Chlamydiaceae family. Different species belong to this genus, they can cause different diseases in humans. For example, the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae causes pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. Studies have shown that 70 percent of all adults carry these pathogens in the resoiratorischen tract.
When we talk about chlamydia, we usually mean its close relative, Chlamydia trachomatis. The term usually designates the result of its action: a venereal disease.
Usually, the cause of a chlamydia infection is unprotected intercourse. Particularly at risk are young girls, they have an increased risk of infection for anatomical reasons, since the chlamydia attach themselves particularly easily to the cervix.
Another reason and common risk factor for chlamydia infection is to change the sexual partner frequently. In addition, pregnant women can transmit the bacteria to their baby during the birth process.
Chlamydia infection is one of the sexually transmitted diseases. Accordingly, she transmits during sexual intercourse or via sexual contact. The eponymous bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis (not to be confused with Chlamydia pneumoniae, which are very common in the neck, nose and lung area in humans) reach mainly through the mucous membranes of sexual processes, anal area or urinary tract from one person to another. Passing chlamydia on orally is therefore just as possible as infecting infected objects (especially sex toys).
If there is no direct contact of mucous membranes or body fluids, the risk of transmission is low in the case of chlamydia. It is unlikely to be infected with public toilets or shared chlamydia towels. The only exception: the rare "Schwymbadkonjuktivitits", a bacterial conjunctivitis, which occurs after visiting a bathhouse and is often triggered by Chlamydia.
The incubation period, ie the period between initial infection with Chlamydia and the onset of symptoms, is approximately one to three weeks. However, as there are no (typical) symptoms for a long time or for a long time, it is not possible to say exactly how long a chlamydia infection lasts.
Chlamydia infection is transmitted through sexual contact and affects both women and men. In the beginning, infection with chlamydia is often not noticeable: symptoms occur in 70 to 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men none. But that does not mean that the disease is harmless. On the contrary. Left untreated, chlamydia in women can cause severe complications such as uterine or tubal inflammation. Chlamydia in men can spread to the epididymis or urethra. Since chlamydia usually heals completely, if treated early, (potential) sufferers should pay attention to certain symptoms of chlamydia infection, which are slightly different for both women and men.
Early chlamydia signs in the woman are:
If the infection has already spread to the fallopian tubes, ovaries and / or cervix, fever and abdominal pain are often added. Expectant mothers may pass the infection on to their child during childbirth if they have chlamydia at this time. An eye infection (eg conjunctivitis) in the newborn is also a typical sign that the disease has been transmitted, such as pneumonia caused by chlamydia.
Early chlamydia signs in men are:
In general, chlamydia can lead to inflammation of the eyes and later to inflammation of the joints in adults or, depending on sexual habits, can cause a pharyngeal or endogenous inflammation.
First of all, the doctor will ask you about your medical history to get a first impression. Thereafter, he performs a physical examination, and laboratory tests are also usually necessary to confirm or refute the diagnosis of chlamydia infection.
If the doctor suspects that the urinary or genital organs are inflamed, he can detect the chlamydia by means of a swab. Also revealing can be a urine test for an infection with chlamydia. Here, the sample from the first urine portion, not - as usual - should be taken from the central jet. Both the smear and the urine test are being investigated by the laboratory using the so-called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a molecular biological method by which chlamydia of the serotype D-K can be detected.
If these bacteria are in the body, the doctor can use the antibodies to detect the chlamydia with a blood test. However, he can only see that the body had to deal with these pathogens, but not when. In addition, since the immune system does not react immediately to an acute chlamydia infection, a negative blood test does not necessarily mean that you have no chlamydia infection.
In addition to these medical methods, there are also self-tests for home to buy. According to the Robert Koch Institute, these are not very reliable, which is why the experts advise against it. Nonetheless, if you pass the test and find it to be positive, go to the doctor immediately to confirm the diagnosis or exclude chlamydia infection.
Generally, the sooner the infection is detected and the chlamydia therapy is started, the better. Mostly the doctor treats chlamydia with medication. In the early, so-called acute stage, antibiotics work well in chlamydia. The disease usually heals without consequences if at the beginning of treatment the bacteria have not spread so far that permanent damage (eg to the uterus, ovary, urethra, etc.) has arisen.
Chlamydia infection is treated with antibiotics. Most commonly used in the doxycycline. This representative of tetracyclines blocks chlamydia growth. Other antibiotics used in chlamydia treatment include azithromycin, erythromycin and ofloxacin.
The selection of chlamydia antibiotics and their dosage depend inter alia on the clinical picture (trachoma, urogenital infection, etc.). Women also consider whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition, the doctor pays attention in the treatment planning to possible additional infections. On the inflamed by chlamydia mucous membranes may in addition spread other pathogens.
The chlamydia treatment in this type of pathogen depends primarily on the clinical picture.
Those who are infected with chlamydia but show no symptoms generally receive doxycycline. The infected person must take 100 milligrams of the antibiotic twice a day for seven days. Alternatively, a single dose of 1.5 grams of azithromycin may be prescribed. This may be useful for patients who would not take doxycycline reliably for a week.
Acute urethritis by chlamydia in men and non-pregnant women is also preferably treated with doxycycline (100 mg twice daily for seven days). Also, acute prostatitis and cervicitis due to chlamydia are usually treated with this regimen.
In men, this chlamydia treatment can be extended to 14 days if the inflammation has spread to the seminal vesicles or epididymides.
If inflammation has spread to the fallopian tubes and / or ovaries in women, there is a "pelvic inflammatory disease" (PID). Here, the doctor will prescribe a combined chlamydia therapy of several antibiotics (ceftriaxone, doxycycline, metronidazole). The duration of treatment is one to two weeks, depending on the course of the disease.
For all urogenital chlamydia infections, the sexual partner must also be treated. This prevents couples from repeatedly infecting each other with chlamydia.
The chlamydial sexually transmitted disease is also usually treated with doxycycline. Patients must take 100 milligrams of the antibiotic twice a day for 21 days.
The alternative is chlamydia therapy with azithromycin (once) or erythromycin (over 14 days). However, these antibiotics are considered second choice drugs.
If pregnant or nursing women suffer from genital chlamydia infection, the doctor prefers azithromycin: The patient must take a single dose of the antibiotic.
Alternatively, the doctor may prescribe chlamydia therapy with erythromycin. This antibiotic must be taken for one to two weeks depending on the dose.
The patient's sexual partner must also be examined and treated for Chlamydia.
Babies who contract Chlamydia trachomatis with their infected mother during labor are usually treated with erythromycin. The antibiotic is given over 14 days.
Alternatively, chlamydia treatment in neonates can also be done with azithromycin. Sometimes a single dose is enough. In other cases, the antibiotic is given for three days.
The chlamydia therapy of choice for rectal inflammation (proctitis) or pharyngitis (pharyngitis) is doxycycline: For seven days, 100 milligrams of the antibiotic must be taken twice a day. Alternatively, the antibiotic azithromycin may be given.
If the patients also suffer from the venereal disease gonorrhea (gonorrhea), the doctor chooses a combination therapy: He prescribed the two antibiotics ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
Chronic connective and corneal inflammation through serovars A to C of Chlamydia trachomatis is called trachoma. The chlamydia therapy usually consists of the one-time intake of 1.5 grams of azithromycin. Alternatively, the antibiotic may also be applied locally (for example as an ointment) over several days.
Conjunctivitis by chlamydial serovars D to K can also be treated with a single dose of 1.5 grams of azithromycin. But there are also other options for chlamydia therapy: For example, the doctor may prescribe a lower dose of azithromycin or doxycycline. The intake must then take place over several days. Alternatively, as with trachoma, topical azithromycin administration may be used.
A simple way to stop chlamydia infection is to have only protected sexual intercourse, so use condoms. In addition, since 2008 all legally insured women up to the age of 25 have once a year been entitled to a screening test for chlamydia. Experts suggest, however, that women should be examined for bacteria longer (up to the age of 34) every year. This screening can also be done by the doctor in the context of maternity care. There is no vaccine against the bacteria.
Chlamydia infection causes in most cases only mild discomfort or none at all. Therefore, a disease with chlamydia sometimes goes unnoticed (for years). Since severe complications can occur if the disease remains untreated, however, you should go to a doctor even with weak symptoms and let him clarify whether a chlamydia infection is present. Possible chlamydia consequences in women include, for example:
In men, the infection can spread to the prostate and epididymis, especially young men often develop after a few weeks joint inflammation (reactive arthritis). Parallel conjunctival and urethral inflammation occur in parallel, experts speak of a Reiter-Triassic.
Newborns often suffer from conjunctivitis or pneumonia as a result of chlamydial infection, and less frequently occurs middle ear infection.