What Is Chlamydia And Does It Cause Infertility?

The sexually transmitted infections or STI's has become a major medical problem across the world since the reported cases of sexually transmitted infections are growing at a rapid pace. Sexually transmitted diseases or STD's is another common name for this type of disease or infection. This category of infections spread easily affecting a large population. The basic reason for this is that the symptoms of most of the sexually transmitted infection are usually unapparent, making it difficult to identify when someone is infected and unknowingly infecting others with whom they have sex.

The rapid spread of sexually transmitted infections is attested by the figures produced by CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reports two million STD cases reported in the US in 2016. All the major sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia, Syphilis, and Gonorrhea are treatable and can be cured by using relevant antibiotics. If left untreated or undiagnosed, they cause a number of medical complications like ectopic pregnancy, infertility, stillbirth and an enhanced susceptibility to HIV transmission.

The threat of Chlamydia

A major part of the reported 2 million cases of sexually transmitted infections are the reported cases of Chlamydia amounting to nearly 1.6 million cases highlighting the spread of this infection. A majority of the people that got infected with Chlamydia are youngsters under the age of 25 years. A major issue with the diagnosis and treatment of Chlamydia is the lack of symptoms. Chlamydia is a primary reason for infertility both in men and women when it remains undiagnosed and untreated for a long time or when it's recurrent.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that's transmitted sexually. A bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis is responsible for causing Chlamydia. It equally affects both men and women. Men can get a Chlamydia infection in the rectum, the throat, and urethra. Women can get a Chlamydia infection in the rectum, the throat, and Cervix.

How can you get infected with Chlamydia?

A person engaging in anal, oral or vaginal sex with an infected person can get infected with Chlamydia. A mother who has Chlamydia can pass it on to her unborn child during childbirth. Also, a person may get the infection even if they were infected in the past and got cured. The infection commonly affects the younger generation, the young women are highly susceptible to Chlamydia. A person is likely to get the infection if they engage in unprotected sex or sexually engage with multiple partners.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

A majority of the infected people does not experience any symptom of the disease. This makes Chlamydia a dangerous infection since the longer it remains undiagnosed and untreated, the bigger are the damages it can cause. The symptoms of Chlamydia whenever apparent, appear after several weeks of having sex with an infected person. An infected person due to lack of visible and apparent symptoms can unknowingly pass on the disease during an unprotected sexual contact.

The symptoms of Chlamydia in women

The symptoms of Chlamydia are usually not experienced by a majority of women. The following symptoms may indicate the infection in women

  • Vaginal discharge that's abnormal, yellow and foul smelling.
  • Frequent urination and a burning sensation while urinating.
  • Swelling around the anus or in the vagina.
  • Pain in the abdominal region, lower back or during intercourse
  • Bleeding after the intercourse or between the periods.
  • Fever and nausea.
  • Irritation, pain and burning in the rectum.

The symptoms of Chlamydia in men

Chlamydia usually doesn't have a lasting/permanent effect on men also, the symptoms are only apparent in a few men. The following are the symptoms of Chlamydia in men

  1. A burning sensation and pain while urinating
  2. A pus-like, milky or watery discharge from the penis.
  3. A burning sensation or itching around the penile opening.
  4. Swelling or pain in testicles.
  5. Irritation, pain and burning in the rectum.

Diagnosis of Chlamydia

A pregnant woman should get herself tested during their first prenatal visit. One should also go for a test if they have a partner that has an STD or if the Chlamydia symptoms are apparent. Apart from the, sexually active people younger than 25 and people that have sexual contact with the same sex should get a test.

The infection can be diagnosed through a physical examination to identify the presence of symptoms. Primarily the diagnosis involves the laboratory testing of swab sample from the cervix, rectum, penis, throat or urethra. Men are usually asked for a urine sample.

What is infertility?

Infertility is a condition in which the woman is unable to conceive even after a year of unprotected sex. This could be caused by a problem in either male or female reproductive system or both. The conception is the result of a number of steps that include the following

  • Ovulation or eggs being released from the ovaries of a woman
  • The egg getting fertilized by being joined with sperm from a man.
  • Movement of the fertilized egg to the uterus through the Fallopian tube.
  • The implantation of the fertilized egg on the internal side of the uterus.

Infertility is the result of a problem with either one or many of the above-mentioned steps. Although sexually transmitted infections are a major cause of infertility.

Chlamydia and infertility

One of the biggest problems caused by Chlamydia is infertility, in fact, it's one of the primary causes of infertility. It can cause infertility in women as well as in men. Chlamydia is usually asymptomatic that means a majority of infected don't even realize that they are infected. Due to this it often remains undetected for a long time that may lead to severe damages to both the male and female reproductive system.

How does Chlamydia affect the male fertility?

Chlamydia can severely damage the genetic of male sperm and cause infertility. Until recently the sexually transmitted infection like Chlamydia was believed to affect only the female fertility, but recent studies have proved otherwise. According to a scientific conclusion presented at American Society for Reproductive Medicine Conference by the Researchers of Canalejo University Hospital, La Coruna, Spain the sperm of an infected male has three times higher level of DNA fragmentation compared to normal levels. The report also indicates the viability of antibiotic treatment in curing the level of DNA fragmentation. The research was conducted on 143 men suffering from the infection. The DNA fragmentation percentage of the sperm from these men was 35% as compared to 11% found in a healthy male sperm. The percentage of immobile and deformed sperm was also higher in infected males.

How does Chlamydia affect the women?

Chlamydia can cause infertility in women, especially when it remains undiagnosed and untreated or when its recurrent. The infection primarily affects the Fallopian tubes and the uterus that can lead to Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. This condition can permanently damage the female reproductive system. The resulting problems include infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and pelvic pains. The women who have suffered recurrent infections are more at the risk of a damage to the reproductive system.

The infection usually starts at the opening of the uterus, known as the cervix. When the infection remains untreated that's the usual case due to its asymptomatic nature, the infection can reach the other parts of the reproductive system like the Uterus, Ovary, Fallopian tubes. When the infection spreads to the Fallopian tubes, it can cause the blockage at the ends of the tube. This condition is known as hydro salpinx. The infection may also cause scarring or scar tissue development in and around the Fallopian tubes. The scarring of Fallopian tubes affects the fertilization and movement of the egg, thereby hampering the fertility process.

The scarring of Fallopian tubes caused by Chlamydia may also result in ectopic pregnancy. The ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition that involves the egg getting fertilized outside the uterus, such as in the Fallopian tubes. The potential of the next pregnancy being ectopic after an ectopic pregnancy is quite high. Another threat to pregnant women is the infection being passed on to the infant at the time of vaginal childbirth. This leads to the medical problems in the newborn infant such as pneumonia and conjunctivitis.

How to detect the tubal damage due to Chlamydia?

The presence of Chlamydia infection can be detected by taking a swab of the cervix and getting it tested. The antibodies created by the body when it's exposed to the Chlamydia infection is also utilized to detect the tubal damage during a blood test. The absence of antibodies is an indication 90% of the time that there's no tubal damage. Its presence indicates the tubal damage accurately nearly 62% of the time. According to a study, When the antibody test is combined with a blood test called C reactive Protein the potential of it detecting tubal damages is 90%.

How to treat Chlamydia?

Chlamydia can be treated through the use of antibiotics. Usually, the antibiotic course is not long except in cases of severe infections. The side effects of the treatment is negligible and may include diarrhea, abdominal pain etc. The treatment is effective and it can completely cure any non-permanent damage. The doctors suggest desisting from sexual activities during the treatment, in fact, it's better to avoid sex for a few days after the treatment. The infected person should also get their sexual partner or partners treated.

The possibility of getting the infection again is quite high. The Chlamydia has a high recurrence rate so it's better to get checked after a few months even when there are no visible symptoms to avoid getting the infection or a permanent damage in case of a sustained infection. Men usually don't have to worry about any permanent damage from the infection. The women may have to suffer a permanent damage to the reproductive system due to the Chlamydia infection.

Do you need to visit the doctor again?

Usually, if a person and their partner follows the instructions of the doctors and follow the treatment and dosage diligently, they do not need to return to the doctor. You may have to visit a doctor again for any of the following reasons

  1. If you engaged in sexual activities during the treatment.
  2. The medication and its dosage were interrupted in between.
  3. The symptoms are still there.
  4. If you are 25 years or younger, a repeat test after three months of the treatment is the best course of action since the potential of catching the infection is higher in this age bracket.
  5. The treatment was undertaken during pregnancy.

When can a person being treated resume sexual activities?

Some should not engage in sexual activities till the treatment is complete even if both the partners are being treated. In case of a single dose treatment, one has to wait a minimum of seven days before having sex. At any time the number of dosage should be completed before having sex. The test should be repeated three months after the treatment to detect a recurrent condition if any.

How to avoid getting infected?

The best way of preventing the medical problems associated with a sexually transmitted infection like Chlamydia is avoiding the infection. To mitigate the risk of getting an infection one should avoid engaging in unprotected sex. Using a Condom is the best way of avoiding many of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Another thing that should be incorporated is avoiding sexual engagement with multiple partners. This will help minimize the potential of getting infected from others.

The principal cause of the rapid spread of sexually transmitted infections is the lack of awareness about the disease. This is apparent from the number of younger people getting infected with the disease. So, it becomes imperative to educate oneself about the causes of diseases in order to avoid them. If you are engaging in unprotected sex, having sex with multiple partners or same-sex practices then it's better to routinely get checked for the infection. This is especially true in case of women particularly the women under the age of 25 years in order to avoid potential permanent damages to the reproductive system. The routine testing becomes important, since the Chlamydia is asymptomatic and the potential of it remaining undetected is quite high.