Submitted by Kate Seldman Wed 05/11/2011
The sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia can lead to infertility in both men and women. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that’s spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. It can have no symptoms: 75% of women and at least 50% of men won’t experience symptoms if they contract the disease. If it is symptomatic, it can cause abnormal vaginal discharge in women, or burning when urinating. Men might also experience discharge from the penis, or irritation around the opening of the penis, as well as a burning sensation during urination. If Chlamydia spreads from a woman’s cervix to her fallopian tubes, she may have pain in her stomach or lower back, bleeding between periods, nausea, fever, or pain during sex. In the rectum, Chlamydia can cause pain, irritation and bleeding. Once this STD spreads into a woman’s fallopian tubes and uterus – which occurs in about 15 percent of women with Chlamydia – it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. This disorder can permanently damage the tissue of the uterus and fallopian tubes, resulting in infertility. The fallopian tubes may become scarred, stopping eggs from becoming fertilized. PID may also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies, which are very dangerous and can sometimes be fatal. Men with Chlamydia can contract an inflammation of the testicles, which may also lead to infertility. Women ages 15 to 24 are the age group most likely to contract Chlamydia. Younger women may be more likely to contract the disease because their cervixes offer a better environment for the bacteria to grow. They should be tested regularly for the STD, and they should also insist that potential sexual partners be tested for Chlamydia before agreeing to have intercourse with them. If it’s detected early, especially if it hasn’t yet spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, Chlamydia can be cured with a course of antibiotics. If a pregnant woman discovers she has the disease, she can also take these antibiotics without harming her fetus. Doctors recommend that female patients with Chlamydia return for a second test three to four months after initially being treated for the disease, since 25% of women become reinfected within six months of treatment, perhaps due to having sex with a partner who has the disease but wasn’t treated.