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How does chlamydia affect the body?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. The biggest problem with chlamydia is that its symptoms are largely "silent." Seventy-five percent of those infected show no symptoms. Chronic inflammation with chlamydia is one of the most frequent causes of increased C-reactive protein levels, which correlate directly with aging of the arteries and probably aging of the immune system. Primarily affecting women, chlamydia can cause internal scarring of the fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus), and infertility. Symptoms, when they do occur, include painful urination, vaginal discharge, and abdominal pain.
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Chlamydia starts when the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis enter the body, usually during sexual contact. The bacteria commonly enter through the urethra, rectum, or mouth. Many times, the infection doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. If symptoms do occur, it's usually after a few weeks and may include painful urination, lower abdominal pain, discharge from the penis or vagina, and in some women, pain during intercourse. Symptoms may go away on their own after a few weeks, but if it's left untreated, chlamydia may cause some more serious complications, especially in women. The bacteria can spread through women's reproductive systems, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, peritonitis, and other infections that may lead to infertility or complications during pregnancy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.