The Long-Term Consequences of Untreated Chlamydia

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Early chlamydia infections frequently do not cause any symptoms. That doesn't mean that untreated chlamydia is not affecting your health. The long term effects of chlamydia can be serious if it's left untreated. That's true for both men and women. Furthermore, it's why screening is so important. It's easy for chlamydia to go undetected based on symptoms alone. That's why regular STD screening should be part of medical exams for anyone at risk of an STD.

That's pretty much everyone. 

Consequences of untreated chlamydia for women outside of pregnancy:

For women, one of the most serious consequence of chlamydia is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, or PID. PID occurs when a bacterial infection, such as an untreated chlamydia infection, moves into the upper reproductive tract. The uterus, fallopian tubes, and surrounding areas may become swollen, scarred, or filled with pus.  PID can sometimes be treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Other times surgery is necessary to clear out the consequences of the ascending infection. Scar tissue might need to be removed. Sometimes, the infection also needs to be surgically drained. 

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is the leading causes of preventable infertility in the United States. Each episode of PID increases a woman’s risk of becoming infertile. It is also associated with: ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus), chronic pelvic pain, and even death.

Fortunately, the most serious complications of PID are largely preventable. However, in order to prevent them, women need to be screened regularly for chlamydia and other bacterial infections. Prompt treatment of chlamydia and other STDs can prevent PID from ever occurring. 

Consequences of untreated chlamydia for pregnant women:

If a woman with untreated chlamydia becomes pregnant, it can also affect the health of her baby.

Chlamydia is associated with pre-term birth. Pre-term birth is when a baby is born before it is fully developed. This can have long-term health consequences for the infant. Chlamydia infection during pregnancy is also associated with infant eye infections and pneumonia. Worldwide, chlamydia eye infections are one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. These eye infections are fortunately rare in the United States due to widespread screening  and treatment during pregnancy. Without treatment, one third to half of babies born to infected mothers would develop eye disease. 

Long term effects of chlamydia for men:

Untreated chlamydia infections in men are also problematic. They can lead to a condition called epididymitis. Epididymitis is an infection of the tubes where sperm mature in the testicles. With epididymitis, men may experience atrophy, or shrinking, of the infected testicle. They may also get abscesses, or pus-filled lesions, in their scrotum. Finally, just as in women, if chlamydia remains untreated, it can lead to infertility.


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