Medical Q&As

Chlamydia - consequences?

How long does a female need to be infected with chlamydia before serious damage is done?

Chlamydia can have significant effects even in the short term and it would be wrong to think that a lengthy period of time needs to elapse before significant consequences occur. The principal concern with this infection is that it can remain symptomless for many months or even years. Some epidemiologists refer to it as a silent epidemic because many millions of people are infected with it worldwide without being aware of it. This “silent” feature of the infection means that chlamydia can be transmitted by a person who is completely unaware of the fact that they are infected. During the silent or symptomless phase of the infection great damage can be done. In the case of female infection the cells of the cervix can be affected and if this is not treated the infection can spread to involve the womb, Fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can give rise to PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), which is estimated to affect almost 40% of women with chlamydia. This can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs. This damage can result in chronic pain, an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and in some cases can result in infertility due to Fallopian tube blockage. Chlamydia can also infect the anus resulting in proctitis. This form of proctitis occurs in those engaging in anal receptive intercourse. Chlamydia can also infect the throat in those engaging in oral sex with an infected male partner. The organism can also cause conjunctivitis and pneumonia in newborn infants born to infected mothers. In summary the consequences of chlamydia infection are potentially serious and can ensue soon after acquiring the infection.