What if chlamydia is untreated?
Left undiagnosed and untreated, chlamydia can cause reproductive problems and other health complications. That's why getting tested is so important.
Untreated chlamydia in women
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10-15% of women with untreated chlamydia get Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID is an infection that attacks the uterus and fallopian tubes, leading to the possibility of infertility or life-threatening ectopic pregnancies.
In rare cases, untreated chlamydia can also lead to chronic pelvic pain or cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder).
Untreated chlamydia in men
While uncommon, untreated chlamydia can lead to the infection spreading to other parts of the penis, prostate and testicles, causing pain and inflammation. The infection can also spread to the epididymis (the tube that caries sperm from the testes), causing pain, fever and sterility.
Chlamydia and HIV
Peoplewith chlamydia are more likely to get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In fact, women who have chlamydia are five times more likely to get HIV if exposed to the virus.
In general, someone who has one STD is at greater risk for infection with other STDs, including HIV. That's because STDs that cause ulcers, sores, or otherwise break the skin or mucous membranes make carriers more susceptible to infection...also, someone with one or more STDs may have a weakened immune system that makes them more vulnerable to other diseases.
Chlamydia and pregnancy
There's a risk that a mother infected by the bacteria can pass it to her baby during delivery, potentially causing premature delivery, pneumonia, and eye or respiratory infection in the infant. To reduce these complications, early testing and treatment of chlamydia is critical for pregnant women.
If you're pregnant and concerned about chlamydia, be sure to consult your regular doctor.
Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.
Lisa Oldson, MD
"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."