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What are the possible complications of chlamydia?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

If chlamydia is left untreated, it can lead to short- and long-term complications in both men and women. Chlamydia may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a condition that can damage a woman's uterus and fallopian tubes. Chlamydia may also lead to chronic pelvic pain, complications during pregnancy, and infertility in women. In men, chlamydia may lead to epididymitis (an infection of a tube connected to the testicles) and prostatitis (an infection in the prostate glands) and in rare cases infertility. It can also increase one's chances of getting HIV. If chlamydia occurs in the eyes, it may eventually lead to blindness, especially in newborns who are infected by their mothers.

Chlamydia infection has a range of possible complications. It is one of the most common causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and it's estimated that up to 10-20% of females with untreated chlamydia will develop PID. Some females with PID will become infertile. Other potential complications include chronic pelvic pain and life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, which is a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths for American females in the first trimester.

Some studies have shown an increased risk of cervical cancer in females who have had chlamydia. Although infections with cancer-causing strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) remain the prime cause of cervical cancer, infection with certain subtypes of Chlamydia trachomatis may contribute to that risk.

In addition, chlamydia infection increases your risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by producing more of the type of white blood cells to which HIV attaches itself. Individuals are also frequently infected with more than one sexually transmitted disease (STD) at a time. These STDs are often transmitted at the same time, so if you have acquired chlamydia, you may also be at risk for having other STDs.

Annual chlamydia screening for sexually active females under 25 years old is cost effective because it can prevent serious reproductive complications, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain.

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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.