Getting tested for chlamydia is extremely important for all sexually active females age 25 and under, especially if they think they have the disease. Women older than 25 who have new or multiple sex partners should be tested annually. All pregnant women should also be screened for chlamydia. Testing and early treatment for chlamydia can help prevent major complications associated with this disease, such as ectopic pregnancy.
All sexually active females age 25 and under should have chlamydia testing at least once a year. Sexually active women older than 25 should be tested if they:
- Have new or multiple sex partners
- Have sex with someone who has other sex partners
- Do not use condoms during sexual activity within a relationship that is not mutually monogamous (their sex partners have sex with other people).
Those who have unusual vaginal discharge, burning with urination, or other symptoms should be tested right away.
What Happens Without Getting Tested for Chlamydia?
If left untreated, chlamydia infection can cause serious reproductive and other health problems. Like the disease itself, the damage that chlamydia causes is often "silent."
In women, the chlamydia bacteria often infect the cells of the cervix. If not treated, the infection can spread into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This happens in up to 40 percent of women with untreated chlamydia. PID can cause:
- Infertility. This is the inability to get pregnant. The infection scars the fallopian tubes, keeping eggs from being fertilized.
- An ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This means that a fertilized egg starts developing in the fallopian tube instead of moving into the uterus. This is a dangerous condition that can be deadly to the woman.
- Chronic pelvic pain. Pain that is ongoing, usually from scar tissue.
Untreated chlamydial infections can also cause inflammation of the bladder. Women who have chlamydia may also be more likely to get HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) from a person who is infected with the virus. In people having anal sex with a partner who has chlamydia, the bacteria can cause proctitis, which is an infection of the lining of the rectum. The bacteria causing chlamydial infections can also be found in the throats of people who have oral sex.
Untreated chlamydia in men typically causes infection of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the body. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testis. This may cause pain, fever, and even infertility.
In pregnant women, chlamydial infections may lead to premature delivery. Babies born to infected mothers can get infections in their eyes, called conjunctivitis or "pink eye," as well as pneumonia. Symptoms of conjunctivitis include discharge from the eyes and swollen eyelids, usually showing up within the first 10 days of life. Symptoms of pneumonia are a cough that steadily gets worse and congestion, usually showing up within 3 to 6 weeks of birth. Both of these health problems can be treated with antibiotics.