Sexual Health Monday August 1, 2011

What are the long-term risks if chlamydia is left untreated?

Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in the UK, but many men and woman don't always know that they have it. The fact that people don't know they are infected means that many of us don't get the timely treatment we need, therefore increasing the risk of the bacteria spreading to uninfected people and also leaving us vulnerable to further long-term health problems.

Many of the health problems caused by chlamydia can occur without most people being aware that their health is at risk, and are therefore only detected by a doctor after a physical examination.

Chlamydia complications in women

An untreated chlamydia infection can spread to the fallopian tubes and uterus, which can result in pelvic inflammatory disease in 10% to 15% of women. PID infects the upper genital tract and can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus and other tissues. This damage can eventually cause issues during pregnancy, infertility and chronic pain in the pelvis. Bacterial STIs like chlamydia can also leave women more open to contract dangerous infections like HIV.

Chlamydia complications in men:

Men are less likely to develop complications from chlamydia, but they can still be serious if they do occur. In some cases chlamydia can spread to the urethra and can cause urethritis, which can cause kidney problems. The epididymis, which is the tube in which sperm is transported from the testicles, can also be affected, which can lead to pain and swelling of the scrotum and eventually infertility. Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that develops as a result of an infection such as chlamydia. It is extremely rare, but can affect the joints, urethra and eyes.

Although most of these effects can be treated, it's far easier to simply prevent them from developing in the first place. Chlamydia is so easy to treat and a standard chlamydia test only requires you to provide a urine sample. If you're sexually active and you've never had an STI test, getting tested will ensure that you don't pass on an STI to anybody else without your knowledge. it will also ensure that you receive treatment before the infection does any long-term damage to your health. An annual chlamydia test is recommended for sexually active people, those with multiple partners and pregnant women, to ensure that all the necessary precautions are taken to avoid any complications during pregnancy or labour.

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