Complications of Chlamydia


About complications: Complications of Chlamydia are secondary conditions, symptoms, or other disorders that are caused by Chlamydia. In many cases the distinction between symptoms of Chlamydia and complications of Chlamydia is unclear or arbitrary.

Complications list for Chlamydia: The list of complications that have been mentioned in various sources for Chlamydia includes:

Complications of Chlamydia: If untreated, chlamydia infection can progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences. Like the disease itself, the damage that chlamydia causes is often "silent."

Untreated chlamydia in men typically causes urethral infection. Infection sometimes spreads to the epididymis (a tube that carries sperm from the testis), causing pain, fever, and, potentially, infertility.

In women, the chlamydia bacteria often infect the cells of the cervix. If not treated, the infection can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes (egg canals) and cause an infection called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This happens in up to 40% of women with untreated chlamydia. PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and tissues surrounding the ovaries. This damage can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).

In pregnant women, there is some evidence that chlamydia infections can lead to premature delivery. Babies who are born when their mothers are infected can get chlamydial infections in their eyes and respiratory tracts. Chlamydia is a leading cause of early infant pneumonia and conjunctivitis (pinkeye) in newborns.

Compared to women who do not have chlamydia, women infected with chlamydia may also have higher risk of acquiring HIV infection from an infected partner. Chlamydia can cause proctitis (an infection of the lining of the rectum) in persons having receptive anal intercourse. The bacterium also can be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected male partner.1

Up to 40% of women with untreated chlamydia will develop PID. Undiagnosed PID caused by chlamydia is common. Of those with PID, 20% will become infertile; 18% will experience debilitating, chronic pelvic pain; and 9% will have a life-threatening tubal pregnancy. Tubal pregnancy is the leading cause of first-trimester, pregnancy-related deaths in American women.

Chlamydia may also result in adverse outcomes of pregnancy, including neonatal conjunctivitis and pneumonia. In addition, recent research has shown that women infected with chlamydia have a 3 - 5 fold increased risk of acquiring HIV, if exposed.

Chlamydia is also common among young men, who are seldom offered screening. Untreated chlamydia in men typically causes urethral infection, but may also result in complications such as swollen and tender testicles.2

In women, untreated chlamydial infections can lead to PID. In men, untreated chlamydial infections may lead to pain or swelling in the scrotal area, which is a sign of inflammation of a part of the male reproductive system located near the testicles known as the epididymis. Left untreated, these complications can prevent people from having children.

Each year up to 1 million women in the United States develop PID, a serious infection of the reproductive organs. As many as half of all cases of PID may be due to chlamydial infection, and many of these don't have symptoms. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. Researchers estimate that 100,000 women each year become infertile because of PID. 3

If not adequately treated, 20 to 40 percent of women with genital chlamydial infections develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which in turn causes problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain.4

1. excerpt from Chlamydia-Disease Information: DSTD
2. excerpt from Chlamydia in the US: DSTD
3. excerpt from Chlamydial Infection, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID
4. excerpt from Sexually Transmitted Diseases Statistics, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID

Last revision: October 23, 2003

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