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Although many STIs don't cause immediate bothersome symptoms, it's important to get treatment sooner rather than later, as some of them can cause long term damage to your health. One of the most common issues related to untreated STIs is infertility in both men and women. In fact, the World Health Organisation says it's one of the main preventable causes of infertility.
STIs such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis (women), mycoplasma genitalium, trichomonas vaginalis (women), ureaplasma urealyticum, non-specific urethritis (men) have all been associated with reproductive problems in men and women.
It's believed that 10% to 40% of women who don't get treatment for chlamydia are at risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is when bacteria or other micro-organisms are able to make their way through the female reproductive organs, causing inflammation of the fallopian tube.
Eggs travel from the ovaries to the womb through the fallopian tube. However, if this tube is damaged or blocked this can cause problems with fertility. If PID isn't treated soon, it can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tube.
Statistically, chlamydia is the most likely STI to cause PID, but PID is also a risk with gonorrhoea, bacterial vaginosis, mycoplasma genitalium, trichomonas vaginalis and ureaplasma urealyticum.
Infertility in men as a result of an STI is usually the result of an infection of the scrotum and epididymis, which are the tubes that carry sperm from the scrotum. The scrotum is where the testes are located and this is where sperm is reproduced. Inflammation of this area could cause issues with sperm production that could lead to reduced fertility. Reproductive complications in men as a result of an STI tend to be less common, but it's still a possibility.
If you think that you may have an STI it's important that you get a test as soon as possible to avoid long term complications. Most bacterial and parasitic STIs are extremely easy to treat and cure, and wouldn't normally require more than one course of antibiotics. If you already have developed complications as a result of an STI, you may require additional check-ups and treatment to clear the infection.