Untreated Chlamydia Has a Negative Impact on Fertility
Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection that is sexually transmitted to the vagina, penis, anus or mouth. It affects 3 million Americans each year and is most common among women under the age of 25, though any sexually active person is susceptible. While the infection is easily treated with antibiotics, chlamydia tends to go unnoticed because many people do not show symptoms. Yearly testing is recommended for all sexually active adults, symptomatic or not, in order to prevent the spread of this sexually transmitted infection (STI) and its dire complications.
Since chlamydia can go unnoticed, undiagnosed and untreated, it's important to know the dangers it poses if it remains undetected. One such danger is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can inflict serious damage on reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. In the fallopian tubes, PID can create scarring, a common cause of ectopic pregnancy. If the fallopian tube has too much scar tissue, a fertilized egg cannot pass safely into the uterus to implant, and instead it implants in the fallopian tube, causing an ectopic pregnancy. As it grows, it can cause extreme, life-threatening bleeding. Ectopic pregnancy also makes it more difficult to conceive in the future.
Chlamydia doesn't need to escalate to PID in order to create scar tissue. The infection itself can also cause scarring on the fallopian tubes, blocking them and making conception difficult, and at times even causing infertility.
Chlamydia infections left untreated also create abscesses, which are pockets of pus. These abscesses may lead to obstructions in the fallopian tubes that negatively impact fertility and can also spread blood infections. The treatment is usually antibiotics and drainage. At times, surgery is necessary. Chlamydia is also treated with antibiotics, and it is possible to have treatment for an abscess and chlamydia at the same time.
Emerging research indicates that chlamydia may also impact male fertility, albeit by different mechanisms than in women. Researchers from Canalejo University Hospital in Spain analyzed sperm samples from 143 infected men and found overall poor sperm quality: DNA fragmentation in sperm was three times worse than in healthy men, overall sperm count and motility were lower, and sperm were more misshapen.
However, these symptoms of infertility in men seem to be treatable. Ninety-five of the men in the study received antibiotics for chlamydia, and researchers saw a 36 percent improvement in the DNA of their sperm, and 86 percent became fertile enough to father children.
An Australian study indicated findings that may support the Canalejo University results, noting that of a group of men with no diagnosed cause of infertility, 45.3 percent of them had chlamydia but showed no symptoms. While the Australian study noted the significance, researchers considered the results inconclusive. Still, with a simple antibiotic treatment, at least as suggested in the Canalejo study, fertility has a chance of being restored in men whose infertility was caused by chlamydia, though it is likely dependent on a number of factors.
Because chlamydia is common and commonly asymptomatic (especially in men), it is especially important for all sexually active adults to get tested yearly. For people who have multiple partners in a year, more frequent testing is often recommended. This is a simple and easy way to detect the bacterial infection early and receive the necessary treatment immediately to prevent life-altering damage to reproductive organs.