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What are the health effects of chlamydia?

Genital chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis that has a range of health effects.

Initially, in females, the bacteria invade cells lining the endocervix (the opening to the uterus). As it spreads into the reproductive tract, it can eventually lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain.

When diagnosed, chlamydia is easily treated and cured. Left untreated, it can lead to significant medical problems for females, one of the most serious being pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). It is estimated that up to 30% of females not treated for chlamydia will develop PID. Acute PID can be difficult to diagnose. Its signs and symptoms vary widely, and many females have only subtle symptoms. PID increases a woman's chances of infertility, chronic pelvic pain or life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.

In addition to PID, chlamydia can lead to proctitis (inflamed rectum) and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye lining). It also increases risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other STDs, as well as cervical cancer. Research has shown that females infected with chlamydia are up to five times more at risk for acquiring HIV than females not infected.

It has been estimated that chlamydia causes no symptoms in up to 70% to 95% of females and 90% of males. For this reason, it is sometimes called a silent disease. Because chlamydia is usually silent but can lead to serious complications, routine annual screening of all sexually active young females 25 years and younger is recommended.

If it's caught and treated, chlamydia is not too serious because it's easily cured without any lasting symptoms. However, because chlamydia often doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms, it may not be diagnosed and treated until it's already caused other problems. When chlamydia is left untreated, it can lead to more complicated infections that can cause infertility in both men and women. If babies get chlamydia from their mothers, they may have infections that can lead to blindness. Chlamydia also increases the chances of getting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Because of these risks, it's important to get regular screenings for chlamydia and to talk to your doctor if you notice any symptoms.

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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.