How long has it been since your last test for chlamydia? If you have been in bed with a new friend since then, or you can’t really remember the test, it is probably too long. Big raised forefinger!
The tricky thing is that you often do not notice a chlamydia infection for a long time. This is why it is the second most common venereal disease in Germany – and one of the main causes of infertility in women, which is also irreversible. An expert explains why Chlamydia can cause such damage and how you can protect yourself against it.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a special type of bacteria that forms and multiplies in mucous membranes. They are best known as the cause of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, as chlamydia infections are called in specialist circles.
However, the bacteria can not only cause the well-known venereal disease, but can also lead to inflammation in the eye (trachoma or conjunctivitis), throat (pharyngitis) or lungs (pneumonia).
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The nasty thing is that you often don’t even notice when you’re infected. Most of the time, you have no symptoms at all for a long time and pass on the bacteria unsuspectingly. “That is why it is impossible to say exactly how many people have chlamydia, nor how the disease progresses from infection onwards,” said Prof. Dr. Michael Torzewski from the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart. It is therefore still unclear how long chlamydia is contagious or remains without symptoms.
Chlamydiosis is the second most common venereal disease in Germany. © Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
How many people are affected by Chlamydia?
Especially during unprotected sex the bacteria migrate from one person to another. If you change your sex partners more often, the risk of getting infected is therefore particularly high. “It is estimated that approximately 13 percent of young, sexually active young women are infected with chlamydia,” said Torzewski.
Oops, that’s a lot! And these people can all carry the disease. However, with increasing age and a less busy sex life, the number decreases. Nevertheless, chlamydiosis is the second most common sexually transmitted disease in Germany and one of the most important causes of non-born infertility (see below).
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How can you protect yourself from Chlamydia?
The most effective remedy against Chlamydia is and remains the condom. Only with it can you prevent the bacteria from being transferred from one mucous membrane to another during sex. By the way, this does not only apply to vaginal intercourse. “Depending on the sexual practice, the bacteria can also attack the throat, the intestines or the conjunctiva,” warns the doctor.
So no matter how wild and varied you like it in bed: remember your safety: don’t do anything without a condom if you don’t know if the other person is healthy or possibly infected!
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What if the Chlamydia infection is not treated?
Harmful bacteria trigger an inflammatory reaction in the body. In the case of chlamydiosis, this means above all a purulent vaginal discharge, but otherwise you will not feel any real pain. This is more likely to occur when the bacteria migrate into the urethra, where it can hurt when you urinate.
But although the infection almost always affects the entire urogenital tract (i.e. vagina and urinary organs), most women notice
You want to get pregnant? Then get tested for chlamydia. © Prostock-Studio / Shutterstock.com
for a long time hardly any of it. During this time, however, the bacteria can rise up the cervix and settle in the uterus, the fallopian tubes or the ovaries.
Why can chlamydia cause infertility?
When the bacteria have penetrated this far into the abdomen, things get pretty serious: “Due to the permanent inflammatory reaction, the tissue eventually starts to stick together and scar,” explains the physician. The scars can then block the tubular fallopian tube so that no more eggs reach the uterus. “This increases the risk of pregnancies outside the uterus, for example ectopic pregnancies,” said Torzewski.
In the worst case, the result is even complete infertility, because the egg and sperm can no longer reach each other at all through the scars. Unfortunately, this can no longer be treated or reversed. Therefore it is very important that the disease is detected and treated early!
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How can chlamydia be detected?
You should not rely on any symptoms, but rather have yourself tested by a doctor. Such a test is totally uncomplicated, because you simply give a little urine to the doctor and you will have the result a few days later. There is no need to take a blood sample or a smear, and the test costs around 20 or 30 euros. “For women under 25, such a urine test is even covered by the health insurance company because they are particularly at risk,” the expert explains.
But no matter how old you are, we strongly recommend that you take one of these quick tests. If you change partners frequently, you can even do this regularly. If, on the other hand, you live a monogamous life, one screening is often enough. If in doubt, you can always contact your local health office for such a test. They are obliged to offer advice or a contact point.
How can Chlamydia be treated?
“The good thing is that the bacteria are not particularly resistant to antibiotics,” said Torzewski. The treatment is therefore quite simple: You go to a gynaecologist, dermatologist or general practitioner, and they prescribe you an antibiotic. “There are three groups of antibiotic drugs, if one doesn’t work, you can try another group,” the doctor explains.
Treatment is also quite fast for uncomplicated infections, sometimes it is enough to take the antibiotic just once. Only if the disease is chronic, i.e. permanent, should treatment last at least 2 weeks.
“It is particularly important that the partner is also treated,” the expert emphasises. Otherwise, the bacteria will be slumbering in your boyfriend, and before you know it, you’ll be infected again.
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Chlamydia in pregnancy? Unconditional treatment, baby’s health is at risk. © Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
What happens when pregnant women are infected with chlamydia?
Pregnant women with Chlamydia must be treated! Otherwise, the baby is very likely to be infected at birth and, in the worst case, can get life-threatening pneumonia. “In addition, the risk of other complications during pregnancy is increased,” warns Torzewski.
So even if you are pregnant, you will be given an antibiotic for chlamydia. Which one you get depends on the month you are pregnant, but you should also see your gynaecologist more regularly to avoid complications.
A Chlamydia infection is a serious thing that is unfortunately often detected too late. Don’t push your luck: Protect yourself during sex, get a urine test from your doctor and inform your partner as well!