Does chlamydia cause infertility in males?

Chlamydia is treatable but when left untreated, it can lead to complications including reproductive issues. Learn more about chlamydia and how it can affect male fertility in this article.

Chlamydia is an STD that can be transmitted both via vaginal and oral sex

Key takeaway:

  • Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by infection with Chlamydia trachomatis.
  • Chlamydia can cause infertility in males, particularly when male sexual organs like the prostate and testis are infected by the causative bacteria.
  • There are different treatment options for bacteria starting with the use of antibiotics.

Chlamydia can lead to infertility in both men and women. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.

Aside from transmission via sexual intercourse, chlamydia can also be transmitted through a mother to an unborn baby.

Because people with chlamydia infection are often asymptomatic, especially during the early stage of infection, it makes it easier for the infection to spread from one person to another.

Most of the research on chlamydia is focused on its effect on women because it is believed to affect them more. However, studies have shown that chlamydia can cause infertility in males as well.

This article will discuss in detail what chlamydia is, its symptoms, and how it can cause infertility in males. It will further discuss how to diagnose chlamydia and its treatment.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria, Chlamydia trachomatis.

It is contracted through sexual intercourse with an infected person or from transmission from the mother to an unborn baby.

It can cause infection both in men and women and in men. Like some other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and viral hepatitis, chlamydia can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Chlamydia usually does not present any symptoms at the early stage and easily spreads from one infected partner to the other. It is the most commonly reported bacterial STD in the United States, with about two-thirds of the infections occurring among youths aged 15-24.

Chlamydia presents with complications similar to other sexually transmitted diseases.

Symptoms of chlamydia

Chlamydia presents with different symptoms in people with penises and people with vaginas. However, at the initial stage, male-presenting people usually don't show symptoms.

The symptoms that appear also depend on the area being affected because chlamydia can affect the oral region, the anus, the penis, or the vagina.

Symptoms of chlamydia in males and females include:

  • Abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina
  • A burning sensation from the penis
  • Pain sensation

Symptoms of chlamydia particular to men include:

  • A yellow or green discharge from the penis
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Burning sensation while urinating

When the chlamydia infection affects the anus, it can present symptoms like:

  • Discharge
  • Bleeding from the anus
  • Pain

When chlamydia affects your throat as a result of oral sex, it can cause symptoms like:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat

How chlamydia can cause male infertility

Chlamydia can cause male infertility when the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria infects the testis and prostrate. When the testis and prostate are infected, it reduces sperm quality, affecting fertility.

Aside from causing harm to male reproductive organs, chlamydia infection can also damage the sperm directly.

According to a study, chlamydia infection impairs sperm parameters and acrosome reaction capacity.

The acrosome is a membraneous organelle located in the front of the sperm nucleus. It contains some hydrolytic enzymes. These hydrolytic enzymes, when secreted, help the sperm to penetrate the egg coats).

Therefore, when chlamydia affects acrosomal reaction capacity, the sperm can no longer penetrate the egg coat smoothly, leading to infertility.

Furthermore, chlamydia infection can cause inflammation of the pelvis and the reproductive system organs (2). This leads to epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymitis) and, by extension, orchitis (inflammation of one or both of the testicles) and prostatitis (inflammation or swelling of the prostrate).

These are all different ways that chlamydia infection can cause fertility issues in males.

What happens if a male has chlamydia for too long?

When chlamydia goes untreated for a long time in males, it can lead to further complications, the most common ones being swollen and tender testicles.

Also, untreated chlamydia can lead to epididymitis, an inflammation of the epididymis (the tube that holds the testicle).

Chlamydia, when untreated, can also affect the prostate gland. This will lead to painful intercourse, fever, and discomfort in the lower back.

Diagnosis of chlamydia

Chlamydia is usually diagnosed using nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATS), cell culture, and other tests.

The specimen normally used for these tests are vaginal swabs in people with vaginas and urine in men. The urine sample will be analyzed in the laboratory.

People with penises can also be diagnosed using swab tests. In this procedure, your doctor will insert a swab (usually a long slim stick with cotton wool at the tip) into the opening at the end of your penis. This will enable them to collect a sample from your urethra. Alternatively, the swab can be collected from your anus.

However, your doctor is always in the best position to decide the best method of diagnosis.

Treatment of chlamydia

Most cases of chlamydia can be successfully treated with antibiotics. The same treatment works for both gender except when the damage has progressed to other conditions.

The most common treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics. After confirming the presence of chlamydia, your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic either as a single large dose or in smaller doses which will be taken over 7 days.

Antibiotics commonly used for this treatment include doxycycline and azithromycin.

During the treatment, it is advisable to abstain from sex for 7 days if you take the single large dose. If you are placed on smaller doses of the antibiotic, avoid having sex until you finish the medication.

Takeaway

Chlamydia can cause infertility in males. It can cause further complications, like epididymitis and prostatitis, when left untreated.

Because chlamydia is often asymptomatic at the early stage, if you are sexually active, always use a protective barrier during sex with a random person or if you have multiple partners. Also, it is always best to get a routine checkup to be sure you don't have an STI.