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Sexual Conditions Health Center

Chlamydia - What Happens

Chlamydia does not cause long-term problems if it is treated before any complications develop. Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to many complications, especially for women. If a woman has chlamydia when she gives birth, her newborn can be infected.

Having a chlamydia infection that was cured does not protect you from a future infection. A new exposure to chlamydia will reinfect you, even if you were treated and cured.

Having chlamydia increases your risk of becoming infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) if you are exposed to the virus.1

Untreated chlamydia can cause a variety of complications.

Complications in women

Complications in pregnant women

Complications in newborns

  • Premature delivery. A premature infant has an increased risk of health problems.
  • Inflammation of the surface of the eyes and the lining of the eyelids (conjunctivitis). About one-half of newborns who have chlamydia get conjunctivitis.
  • Infection of the nose and throat
  • Lung infections, such as pneumonia
  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Urethritis, though this is very rare in infants

Complications in men

Other complications of untreated chlamydia in all people

  • Conjunctivitis, spread by touching the infected area and then touching the hand to the eye
  • Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the rectum (proctitis), if the chlamydia is from anal sex
  • Varied symptoms, such as joint and eye inflammation, caused by bacterial infection (Reiter's syndrome, or reactive arthritis)
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV. This is caused by a type of chlamydia that is usually rare in the United States, but it is becoming more common in men who have sex with men. It causes open sores in the genital area, headache, fever, fatigue, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin. It also causes proctitis in people who get chlamydia through anal sex.
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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