Womens Health

Effects of Chlamydia

Chlamydia Basics

Chlamydia, one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the United States, has ironically been coined the "silent" disease. Despite its prevalence among both men and women, the majority of individuals who contract the Chlamydia Trachomatis bacteria have no visible symptoms of the disease even weeks after becoming infected.

However, left undetected and untreated, Chlamydia can cause long-term damage to the male and female reproductive organs and lead to severe fertility complications in women.

Short-Term Chlamydia Effects

When symptoms of Chlamydia do appear, they first range from mild to moderate and surface one to three weeks after exposure. In the short-term, the following are some of the symptoms associated with Chlamydia.

Women may experience:

- Unusual vaginal or rectal discharge

- Burning sensation while urinating

- Bleeding between periods or after intercourse

- Painful sexual intercourse

Men may experience:

- Unusual discharge from the penis or rectum

- Burning sensation while urinating

- Tenderness, swelling and/or pain in the testicles

Long-term Chlamydia Effects

If Chlamydia is undetected, the infection may spread and cause inflammation of the reproductive or other organs. In such instances Chlamydia symptoms become painful and more severe. The following are some of the long-term complications and effects associated with Chlamydia.

In women:

- Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), characterized by odorous vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding after intercourse or bleeding outside of the menstrual cycle, vaginal pain, pelvic pressure

- Chronic lower abdominal pain

- If the infection spreads to the uterus or fallopian tubes, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) may develop, wherein swelling and scarring of tissue blocks the fallopian tubes, thereby blocking the movement of eggs into the uterus and preventing fertilization. Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause permanent infertility.

- PID in turn can lead to an ectopic pregnancy, wherein fertilization takes place in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus (womb), and thus the fetus cannot develop or survive. Moreover, as the embryo begins to grow, the tubes can rupture and the mother may experience excruciating pain and bleeding and can die if the embryo is not surgically removed.

- In pregnant women, Chlamydia is associated with pre-term births, infant eye infections (conjunctivitis), and pneumonia.

In men:

- Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra)

- Damaged sperm function

- Epididymitis, which refers to chronic inflammation of the testicles and sperm-conducting tubes, resulting in pain, swelling and redness of the scrotum

- Inflammation of the prostate gland, including fever, chills and lower back pain

- Other joint inflammation

Chlamydia Treatment

Antibiotic medications are used to treat Chlamydia, most often successfully. However, since the disease is largely asymptomatic, it must first be detected; therefore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all sexually active individuals be tested yearly for Chlamydia and other STDs and that they use condoms properly and consistently during all sexual activity.

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