Chlamydia is the most common STD among young adults. Ten to 40% of all cases of chlamydia, which can lead to infertility and other health problems, are reported in the 15 to 19 age group. [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)].
Four million Americans per year are infected by chlamydia, and over one-third of sexually active teens have chlamydia.
Chlamydia is a microorganism which infects human mucus membranes of the vagina, rectum and mouth. The parasitic bacteria most frequently infects men and women who have had more than one sexual partner.
Adolescent women are the most commonly infected group and the majority of infected women and men have no symptoms. The number of men and women afflicted with chlamydia each year is staggering; the damage done to reproductive organs and to fertility can be devastating.
Chlamydia can move upward from the cervix into the pelvic organs and, if left untreated, can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women. A consequence of Chlamydial Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is that it often renders the female sterile (unable to bear children) by scarring the Fallopian tubes, without any symptoms of active disease such as fever or pain. In males, chlamydia can inflame and block the sperm ducts.
Chlamydial Infection is now considered the most common cause of sterility, as mentioned above, causing about 40 percent of PID in the U.S. [CDC, STD/HIV Annual Report, 1997].
Other complications of chlamydial infection include adult pneumonia, ear infections, heart muscle infection, infection of the uterus after childbirth, miscarriage or premature delivery. It can also infect the child after birth.
The symptoms of a chlamydial infection are quite mild when compared to the damage caused to the reproductive organs by the PID.
About 70 percent of chlamydial infections in women have no symptoms.
The serious long-term consequences of PID cannot be overstressed. It should be noted that chlamydia can be treated; however, any damage done to the internal organs prior to treatment cannot be reversed.
About one million U.S. women suffer from symptomatic PID each year.
One in six women experience infertility following PID, even with STD treatment.
Failure to treat the STD and/or repeated episodes of PID result in even higher rates of infertility.
Nearly one of every 10 first pregnancies following PID are ectopic, or tubal pregnancies [CDC, STD/HIV Annual Report, 1991]. There were over 108,500 ectopic pregnancies in 1992, the highest level in more than two decades (CDC, 1995).
In comparison, there are 520,000 cases of measles and mumps per year in the U.S., versus 3.5 million cases of chlamydia.