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Chlamydia Facts

Cause of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is sometimes called NGU or non-gonorrheal urethritis.

Because it is caused by a bacterium, not a virus, chlamydia can be cured with a complete course of the correct antibiotics.

The biggest obstacle to curing chlamydia is that most infected people have no symptoms. About 80% of women and 10% of men have no symptoms until the disease has caused other health problems.

Chlamydia can cause serious health problems in both men and women. These problems can lead to pain, huge medical expenses, and heartbreak. In some cases death is possible.

Complications of Chlamydia

Chlamydia increases the chance of contracting other STDs including HIV/AIDS. Recent studies have shown that a woman with chlamydia who is exposed to HIV is 3 to 5 times as likely to become infected than a woman without chlamydia.

In women, the bacteria first attack the cervix (opening to the uterus) and the urethra (urine canal). In men, the bacteria first attack the urethra.

The most common complication of chlamydia for women is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Women may lose the ability to have children or have ectopic (tubal) pregancies as a result of PID.

The most common complication of chlamydia in men is epididymitis. This is a painful infection in the testicles. If untreated, epididymitis can lead to sterility. Rarely, men contract disabling arthritis as a result of chlamydia infection.

Chlamydia may cause complications in newborns. Some babies of women with chlamydia develop conjunctivitis (eye infections) and pneumonia.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the female upper genital tract, which includes the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. If it is untreated, PID causes scarring in these genital structures. This scarring can lead to infertility (inability to have children).

When fallopian tubes are scarred, a woman’s egg can be unable to pass from the ovary to the uterus. If the egg is fertilized in the tube, it is called an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies can lead to death if not treated with surgery.

Many women with PID have serious, chronic (ongoing) pain in their pelvic area.

Chlamydia is one of the two most common causes of PID. When the chlamydia or other bacteria move upward through the vagina to the cervix and into the upper genital tract, they irritate and infect those tissues. It appears to scientists that gonorrhea and chlamydia cast out some cells in the fallopian tubes and invade other cells. The bacteria multiply within and beneath these cells. As the bacteria spreads, it irritates and scars tissues throughout the area.

Symptoms of PID caused by gonorrhea often appear for the first time immediately after a woman’s menstrual period. This seems to be due to menstrual blood flowing backward from the uterus into the fallopian tubes, carrying the organisms with it. This menstrual connection does not seem to occur with PID caused by chlamydia.

Symptoms of PID

PID may produce only minor symptoms or no symptoms at all. This is especially true when the PID is caused by chlamydia. Even if a woman has no symptoms or only slight symptoms, PID can seriously damage her reproductive organs.

When symptoms of PID exist, they are most often lower abdominal pain and abnormal vaginal discharge. Some women experience fever, pain in the right upper abdomen, pain during sex, and irregular menstrual bleeding as well.

In The Know: STI Pamphlet/ DVD Package
In the Know: STI Pamphlet Package