The Long-Term Consequences of Untreated Chlamydia

Portrait of a pregnant woman
ONOKY - Fabrice LEROUGE/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

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. 

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.

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.

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.


Gimenes F, Souza RP, Bento JC, Teixeira JJ, Maria-Engler SS, Bonini MG, Consolaro ME. Male infertility: a public health issue caused by sexually transmitted pathogens. Nat Rev Urol. 2014 Dec;11(12):672-87. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2014.285.

Goldschmidt P. Social Sciences for the Prevention of Blindness. Trop Med Health. 2015 Jun;43(2):141-8. doi: 10.2149/tmh.2014-32.

Ljubin-Sternak S, Meštrović T. Chlamydia trachomatis and Genital Mycoplasmas: Pathogens with an Impact on Human Reproductive Health. J Pathog. 2014;2014:183167. doi: 10.1155/2014/183167.

Mackern-Oberti JP, Motrich RD, Breser ML, Sánchez LR, Cuffini C, Rivero VE. Chlamydia trachomatis infection of the male genital tract: an update. J Reprod Immunol. 2013 Nov;100(1):37-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2013.05.002.

Silva MJ, Florêncio GL, Gabiatti JR, Amaral RL, Eleutério Júnior J, Gonçalves AK. Perinatal morbidity and mortality associated with chlamydial infection: a meta-analysis study. Braz J Infect Dis. 2011 Nov-Dec;15(6):533-9.

Continue Reading