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Chlamydia

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Complications

Each year more than 750,000 women in the United States develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the reproductive organs. Twenty to forty percent of women with chlamydial infections that are not adequately treated may develop PID.

PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. Researchers estimate that more than 75,000 women each year become infertile because of PID.

In other cases, scarring may interfere with the passage of the fertilized egg to the uterus during pregnancy. When this happens, the egg may attach itself to the fallopian tube. This is called ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This very serious condition can result in miscarriage and can cause death of the mother.

In men, untreated chlamydia may lead to pain or swelling in the scrotal area. This is a sign of inflammation of the epididymis. Though complications in men are rare, infection could cause pain, fever, and sterility.

Complications in newborns

A baby who is exposed to Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria in the birth canal during delivery may develop an eye infection or pneumonia. Symptoms of an eye infection, called conjunctivitis or "pink eye," include discharge in the eye and swollen eyelids and usually develop within the first 10 days of life.

Symptoms of pneumonia, including a cough that gets steadily worse and congestion, most often develop within 3 to 6 weeks of birth. Healthcare providers can treat both conditions successfully with antibiotics.

Because of these risks to the newborn, many healthcare providers recommend that all pregnant women get tested for chlamydia as part of their prenatal care.

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Last Updated August 30, 2010