Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is caused by bacteria Chlamydia trichomatis and affects both men and women globally. Chlamydia has high incidence in European countries and in the United States of America. Infections are common in age 15 to 25 years and are more frequent in women than men. Infection spreads during vaginal, anal and oral sex. On entering the host’s body, chlamydia remains asymptomatic for many weeks. It does not show any signs and symptoms quickly; hence it is called a ‘Silent Disease.’ Chlamydia is one of the foremost causes for infertility in people who are untreated. Therefore, young women and men are encouraged to undergo screening for chlamydia infection. If infection is detected, then one should start treatment promptly.
Long Term Effects of Chlamydia
It is necessary to recognize the short term effects which will help in getting early treatment. However, if chlamydia infection is not diagnosed early or is not treated properly, it leads to long term serious effects as follows:
Long Term Effects of Chlamydia in Women
Women with untreated chlamydia face serious complications to the reproductive system such as –
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease:
When chlamydia is not detected, it causes inflammation of the cervix which leads to foul smelling vaginal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, and bleeding between periods. There is pain experienced in the lower abdomen. As chlamydia spreads to the upper reproductive tract it causes infection in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This results in swelling and scarring of the tissues. The scarred tissues blocks the fallopian tubes, due to which there is no movement of eggs and it prevents fertilization to occur. Thus, the long term effect of untreated chlamydia in women is infertility (problem in getting pregnant). Further, it can lead to ectopic pregnancy, recurrent miscarriages, still births, chronic pelvic pain and even death.
Complications during Pregnancy and Childbirth:
A pregnant woman with untreated chlamydia can pass her infection to her child. Such babies are born with eye disease (trachoma) and pneumonia. Infections in pregnant women can also lead to premature birth.
Long Term Effects of Chlamydia in Men: In men the long term consequences of untreated chlamydia infection include:
Inflammation of the Testicles:
Epididymis is the tube where the sperms mature after they are formed in the testicles. Chlamydia infection causes inflammation of these tubes called as Epididymitis. This causes shrinkage of testicles. The scrotum has swelling, pain and pus filled lesions. It results in infertility in men. Epididymitis often results in damaged sperm production and maturation resulting in infertility.
Reactive Arthritis as a Long Term Effect of Chlamydia:
In untreated men, the joints, eyes and urethra becomes inflamed. It is called sexually reactive arthritis (SARA).
Inflammation of the Prostate Gland
Causes fever with chills and lower back pain.
Short Term Effects of Chlamydia
Short term and early symptoms in women include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding on contact or during intercourse
- Burning sensation during urination.
While infected men show symptoms such as:
- Abnormal discharge from penis
- Burning sensation during urination
- Rare cases exhibit pain and swelling of testicles.
- If rectus is affected, in both sexes, there is rectal discharge, bleeding and pain.
Risk Factors for Chlamydia
The risk factors for getting chlamydia infection include:
- Unprotected sex with partner suffering from untreated chlamydia infection.
- Not maintaining hygiene when dealing with infected patients. Infection spreads from infected eyes to hands.
- An untreated pregnant female passes chlamydia infection to the child in her womb.
- Very rarely one contracts infection on using infected towels.
How to Prevent Chlamydia Infection?
To avoid the serious long term effects of chlamydia, one must take proper precaution to avoid getting infection by it. The precautions include:
- To maintain good hygiene
- To stop with unprotected sexual practices
- To reduce number of sexual partners
- To get tested or get screened for presence of chlamydia by people engaged in unprotected sex every year
- Pregnant women should get tested early to start with immediate treatment so that the baby does not get chlamydia infection. Babies born with chlamydia infection suffer from trachoma which causes blindness.
- To avoid having sex with infected partner who has not completed the entire course of the treatment.
- The infected person should confirm if the treatment is working by retesting after 5 weeks of taking the medicines.
The untreated or poorly treated chlamydia infection has severe health implications. In order to avoid the long term consequences, it is necessary that both men and women should undergo screening to detect presence of chlamydia. It is very essential for a pregnant woman to undergo screening to diagnose this infectious agent. Thus, when chlamydia is detected, treatment should be started early to prevent complications in future.