All You Need to Know about Chlamydia and Infertility

Can Chlamydia cause infertility? Chlamydia is one of the common sexually transmitted diseases that is caused due to infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is among the most common STDs in the USA. According to estimates by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), it affects 2.8 million people in America each year. Chlamydia may be transmitted via oral, anal or vaginal sex. It may also be transmitted from a female who is infected with the disease to her infant during childbirth. Any person who is sexually active can get infected with the bacterium. The risk of infection increases with the total number of partners you have sex with.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Around 75% of females and 50% of males who are infected do not show any symptoms and signs. If symptoms do occur, they appear within one to three weeks post exposure to the bacteria. Females develop abnormal discharge from vagina or burning during urination. In case the infection reaches the fallopian tubes, some females may present with symptoms of pain in low back, pain in lower abdomen, fever, nausea, pain at the time of sexual intercourse and bleeding between menses.

Symptoms in males are pain and swelling in testicles, pain in lower abdomen, burning during urination, green or yellow discharge from penis.  

Can Chlamydia Cause Infertility in Females?

In females, Chlamydia infection if left untreated may reach the fallopian tubes, blocking the tubes at their ends. This condition is referred to as hydrosalpinx. Scarring or webbing may also develop around the area of the fallopian tubes (open ends of the tubes), which makes it difficult for them to take up or capture eggs during ovulation. Untreated Chlamydia also causes PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), which is characterized by inflammation of the whole reproductive tract of a female. Adhesions and scarring in fallopian tubes may also occur due to recurrent episodes of pelvic inflammatory disease.

Every month an egg reaches the uterus from the ovary via the fallopian tube and fertilization takes place in fallopian tubes. A female can still get pregnant with blockage of one fallopian tube, if the ovulation is taking place in the other ovary regularly. However, infertility occurs, if blockage occurs in both the fallopian tubes.

Hence, Chlamydia, if not detected or treated on time, can lead to infertility in females.

When should you visit a physician?

You should visit a physician regarding your fertility problems if:

  • You are trying to get pregnant for one year or more and not getting success.
  • You are trying to get pregnant for 6 months or more and you are older than 36 years.
  • You have suffered from pelvic inflammatory disease in the past.
  • Your fallopian tubes are blocked.

How to Detect Tubal Damage due to Chlamydia?

After discussing can Chlamydia cause infertility in females, let’s discuss how can tubal damage due to Chlamydia be detected.

Tubal Obstruction at the end is detected by doing a hysterosalpingogram during which a dye is injected into the uterus and its spilling through the ends of the fallopian tubes indicates that the fallopian tubes are not blocked. Pelvic adhesions can be detected by doing a laparoscopy in which a telescope with a small camera at its one end is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen under anesthesia. Since it is an invasive procedure, it is done only when absolutely necessary.

Treatment

Treatment of fallopian tube blockage caused due to Chlamydia may be done in two ways. The physician may perform a procedure that is minimally invasive to clear the blockage of the fallopian tube. Then the pregnancy will either be allowed to happen naturally or with the aid of an oral medicine. The couple can also take the help of IVF, which overcomes the problem of fallopian tube blockage. The choice of treatment in a particular situation is dependent on the condition of the female and her preferences.

Can Chlamydia cause infertility in Males?

In males, Chlamydia may reach the epididymis and testicles making them swollen and painful. The condition is known as epididymoorcyitis or epididymitis. This inflammation of testes is treated using antibiotics. If left untreated, it may affect a male’s fertility.

According to a new study, Chlamydia causes fragmentation of DNA in sperms resulting in infertility in males. Researchers report that males who have Chlamydia have greater than thrice the normal levels of fragmented DNA in their sperms. However, it was also indicated by the results of this study that appropriate treatment with antibiotics can help in restoring the genetic integrity of the sperms of these males and their fertility. Till this study was conducted, it was believed that Chlamydia caused infertility in females only.

However, in the study conducted in the year 2007 in Spain, sperms of 143 males infected with Chlamydia were studied. It was found that 35% of sperms obtained from the infected males contained fragmented DNA in comparison to only 11% of sperms obtained from healthy males. Moreover, higher percentage of immobile and malformed sperms was obtained from infected males. It was also found that 86% of couples achieved pregnancy after completing antibiotic therapy.

Prevention: According to physicians males can protect from developing infertility due to Chlamydia by getting regular screenings for the disease. 

 
 
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