Complications of Chlamydia infection

complications of clamydia

Chlamydia infection is usually easily treated but may lead to complications if left untreated

Chlamydia infection is usually easily treated with antibiotics. If it is not adequately treated the disease may result in serious short and long term consequences. The complications of Chlamydia infection can be quite serious that is why it is important, especially for women, to be tested even if they do not have any symptoms of disease. These complications are usually more common in people who have a lowered immune system.

The following complications may develop if Chlamydia infection is left untreated:

  • Blindness
    Chlamydia infection of the eyes is a common cause of blindness worldwide. The most common eye infections caused by Chlamydia infection are Conjunctivitis and Trachoma. Chlamydia infection of the eye can spread by contact with an infected individual. This can be by direct contact with the eye from fingers, shared towels and sneezing. Blindness from Chlamydia infection is the world’s most common cause of preventable blindness. Blindness form Chlamydia is more common in poverty-stricken areas and areas where sanitation is poor. Blindness usually results from recurrent eye infections which cause the upper eyelid to turn inward scratching the cornea. The World Health Organization has developed a public health strategy called the SAFE strategy to help prevent blindness from Chlamydia infection. The SAFE approach incorporates treatment; Surgery and Antibiotics, as well as prevention namely Facial-cleanliness and Environmental improvement.
  • Arthritis
    Chlamydia infection may spread to the joints resulting in arthritis. This can result in permanent joint damage. Arthritis which develops as a result of Chlamydia infection is also known as Reiter’s Syndrome and is a reactive arthritis.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
    Pelvic inflammatory disease is a disease which women can develop as a result of infections spreading to the pelvic organs. The uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes can become infected and inflamed. This may result in scarring of the tissues and may cause chronic pain and infertility. Pelvic inflammatory disease also increases the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the foetus develops outside of the womb. It has been noted that about 4 in 100 women with Chlamydia infection develop pelvic inflammatory disease. It is important to remember that this complication may develop even in women who have had no previous symptoms of Chlamydia infection.
  • Epididymis
    If Chlamydia infection is left untreated in men the infection may spread and lead to infection of the testes. If this is not treated it may lead to infertility and chronic pain.
  • Prostatitis
    Chlamydia infection may spread to the prostate gland in men causing infection and inflammation of the prostate gland known as prostatitis.
  • Infection of the New-born
    The new-born can become infected during pregnancy or the birth process from an infected mother. This can result in preterm labour, miscarriages, pneumonia in the newborn and even permanent blindness. An infected new-born usually starts developing symptoms one week after birth.
  • Infertility
    Reduced fertility can occur in men and in women infected with Chlamydia infection. In women and men the reason why fertility could occur is because the tubes of the reproductive organs transporting the egg or the sperms are very delicate and develop scar tissue when they are infected with Chlamydia. This scar tissue can interfere with transportation or even block the tubes completely.  The chances of infertility increase with repeated infections.
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum
    Chlamydia infection may also spread to the lymph nodes causing lymphogranuloma venereum. This may cause genital ulcers with swollen and painful lymph nodes. The bacteria gain access through mucousal membranes, or through cuts or sores in the skin. Lymphogranuloma venereum is almost exclusively found in people with co-morbid HIV infection. This condition is also treated with antibiotics. Drainage of abscesses if present is also part of the management. If lymphogranuloma venereum is not adequately treated it may result in blockage of the lymphatic system and result in elephantiasis which is severe swelling of the lower limbs.
  • Increased risk of contracting HIVChlamydia infection increases a person’s risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. Having Chlamydia infection with HIV infection increases the chances of complications occurring.


Treatment of complications

Complications from Chlamydia infection are treated accordingly depending on what complication has developed. In severe pelvic inflammatory disease surgery may be necessary. Sometimes surgery can also help correct infertility caused by scarring of tissues as a result of Chlamydia infection.

Chlamydia infection is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is common for the disease not to have any symptoms so screening programs have been implemented. It is usually easily treated but may lead to adverse complications if left untreated.