What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a parasitic bacteria that uses the biochemical processes of a host cell in order to reproduce. There are actually three main strains of Chlamydia that can cause infection: chlamydia trachomatis, chlamydia psittacci, and chlamydia pneumoniae.

Chlamydia trachomatis is a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) that is quite common among both men and women. This strain can cause infections in the urogential area, and eyes. If a woman is pregnant and isn’t treated, she can pass on the infection to her baby, thus leading to complications like respiratory tract infections, severe eye infections, and sometimes blindness.

Chlamydia psittacci can lead to a rare infection called “parrot fever.” As the name implies, this fever and its symptoms are often caused by handling birds, such as chickens. If a person breathes in any unsafe particles of a bird’s body excretions or is bitten by a bird, then he or she may be at risk for this condition.

Chlamydia pneumoniae is respiratory issue seen most often in children, but anyone can get this infection. It is easily passed from one person to another by sneezing and coughing. If a person is in a crowded facility, like a school, then their infection can spread more easily.

What are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Since Chlamydia Trachomatis often presents itself without any symptoms, it can still cause damage to the reproductive system. So it is important for men and women to check with any new sexual partners for this STD and to see a doctor every year for a physical. If symptoms do appear, they may not show up until many weeks after sexual intercourse.

Symptoms include

Both men and women may have a burning sensation when urinating and abnormal discharge. If untreated, chlamydia trachomatis can cause women to develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause abdominal pain, fever, chills, vomiting, malaise, and painful sexual intercourse. PID also can cause ectopic pregnancies or even infertility. Men who are infected sometimes feel swelling or pain in their testicles. The infection can also spread to the prostate gland for men, which can make sexual intercourse painful and can cause fevers and low back pain. Lastly, this strain of chlamydia can sometimes cause trachoma, which is an eye infection where the conjunctiva, or the thin membrane on the inner eyelid, can be irritated. If trachoma isn’t treated, it can cause pus, swollen eyelids, scarring and even blindness.

The symptoms for Chlamydia psittacci include photophobia, fatigue, coughing, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and pain, achy joints, difficulty breathing, and chest pain.

Chlamydia  pneumoniae can cause the development of many respiratory issues, such as ear, throat, and laryngitis infections. Bronchitis, sore throats, and coughs are also common symptoms.

Chlamydia Causes

Chlamydia infections are caused by bacteria species within the chlamydia genus. These species have a strong affinity for human genitalia because the body’s immune system is most compromised in those regions. Chlamydia bacteria do not survive very well outside of the human body, so infections are almost always the result of contact between humans.

Usually, this interpersonal contact is sexual in nature, with different forms of sexual activity carrying different levels of risks. Kissing and masturbation seem to have the lowest chance of spreading chlamydia, but intercourse and anal sex produce elevated risks.

Chlamydia may also be spread in other ways besides sex. It is especially easy to spread chlamydia through the intravenous injection of drugs because many drug addicts share needles. Blood in a needle can carry the bacteria for weeks. Many persons are born with chlamydia because of an infected mother.

How is Chlamydia Treated?

If a person is diagnosed with chlamydia trachomatis, then he or she will need to take a course of antibiotics. This may include a week of doxycycline or a dose of azithromycin. A person should not have sexual intercourse again until they have finished their course of antibiotics, and they should tell their sexual partners so they too can get tested for infections. While not required, it is recommended that a person abstains from alcohol during the antibiotic course since it can lessen the medication’s effects. Lastly, if a woman’s newborn baby is infected by chlamydia, then he or she may need to take erythromycin or any medication that is approved by the doctor.

Chlamydia psittacci is also treated with a course of antibiotics, such as doxycycline or tetracycline. Chlamydia pneumoniae is often treated with antibiotics like erythromycin or tetracycline.

Chlamydia Prevention

Preventing chlamydia is very simple if someone practices safe sex and avoids injecting recreational drugs. Using a condom greatly reduces the chance of contracting chlamydia during sexual intercourse, but abstinence can completely remove the risk. Avoiding the use of recreational drugs can seriously reduce the risk of chlamydia as well. People who abuse drugs are more likely to practice unsafe sex, and certain methods of drug use may increase the risk.

An important tool in preventing chlamydia is regular STI testing. Couples should have themselves tested on a regular basis to make sure both people are without any STIs. Some states have even created laws that will allow people to sue someone if they are infected with chlamydia without any prior warning. These lawsuits can easily cost millions of dollars.

There are now researchers attempting to create a chlamydia vaccine. These researchers aim to prevent chlamydia from attaching itself to tissue and reproducing.

Last Reviewed:
September 18, 2016
Last Updated:
December 05, 2017
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