Chlamydia bacteria is the causative organism for Chlamydia trachomatis, a disease that can be transmitted sexually. It is presently the commonest sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
It has been noticed to be more common in young women considering that sexually-active women under the age of 25 have frequently been reported to be suffering from the infection for the past decade. Every year, more than 100,000 fresh cases of Chlamydia trachomatis infections occur globally.
Chlamydia is easy to treat when detected on time. There is no record of drug resistance by the chlamydial bacteria. That notwithstanding, it has become a thing of immense concern to healthcare practitioners given that complications arising from untreated chlamydia have resulted to diverse health and economic burdens on individuals infected and the community of people he or she belongs to.
How Does Chlamydial Arthritis Happen?
One of the complications following an infection of Chlamydia bacteria is arthritis, inflammation (severe swelling and pains) of the joints of the body. Chlamydia trachomatis principally causes arthritis in infected persons. Up to 8% of persons infected with Chlamydia trachomatis develop arthritis about 6 weeks after exposure to the bacteria.
Chlamydia pneumonia is another form of the chlamydia bacteria that infects the lungs of a human. Others are Lymphogranuloma venereum and the ocular strain of Chlamydia bacteria.
Since chlamydial infection is rampant, reports of arthritis from the infection is not uncommon. Even at that, there is a belief amongst physicians and scientists that there could be more cases of arthritis induced by chlamydia which are unknown or not reported owing to wrong diagnoses or the inability of some infected persons to access equipped health facilities. Sadly, half of the cases of reported arthritis progress to lifelong arthritis in the infected.
Chlamydia bacteria that target the eyes are acquired through sexual intercourse alongside Chlamydia trachomatis. On getting to the genitals, the eyes-targeting strains of Chlamydia rapidly moves from the genital tract to the joints of the bones in the body and finally, to the synovial tissues.
They remain there for many years and may start generating actions that distort the body's immune response against infections, thereby eliciting the production of pains and tissue death in the joints. This results in arthritis in the affected joints. Unexpectedly, these strains of chlamydia that have a high affinity for the eyes are the triggers of arthritis in chlamydia-positive persons.
Chlamydia pneumonia also causes arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis from Chlamydial Infection
The following can be felt and seen by persons suffering from chlamydial arthritis.
- Swelling of the joints, most often of the knees and ankles
- Pain at the affected joints
- Swelling of the extremities including the toes and fingers
- Pain at the extremities
- Chronic low back pain that worsens at given times of the day
- Difficulty urinating
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Swelling and redness of the eyes
- Presence of rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- Inflammation of the sacrum
- Swollen knees
- Painful heels
Diagnosis of Chlamydial Arthritis
Though no specific diagnostic test for arthritis-caused-by-chlamydia is in existence, the first step in diagnosing the problem is to examine for urethral discharge facilitated by sexually transmitted diseases.
Also, samples of stool can be tested for the infection. A blood test that reveals an increased white blood cell count and a high erythrocyte sedimentation rate is a sure pointer to inflammation. There may be a low red blood cell count level in the arthritic patient.
In newly infected persons, joint X-rays may not show any deformation of the affected joints. However, in persons who have had repeated attacks from chlamydial arthritis, affected joints may show osteoporosis and bone loss. There could also be damages on joints of the pelvis and the back.
Treatment of Chlamydial Arthritis
Presently, there is no cure for chlamydial arthritis. The treatment administered is geared toward alleviating the symptoms of arthritis. It also depends on how serious the symptoms are. In many infected persons, treatment is not needed as the symptoms could be well managed with supportive care. Nevertheless, some persons experience persisting symptoms that would require treatment with drugs to feel better again. Luckily, surgical treatment is not needed for chlamydial arthritis.
Apart from massaging and other acts of physical therapies, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be administered on the person. Other forms of symptoms-managing drugs that can be given are prednisone, intra-lesional corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
Apart from patients who cannot care for themselves without support, those who have other serious diseases alongside arthritis and those who experience deep pain, it is not necessary to be admitted to a hospital for chlamydial arthritis.
Treating chlamydia on time prevents chlamydial arthritis. Is there any other way to nip the infection at the bud other than through routine screening?