What to Know About Chlamydia in the Throat

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Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), especially among people ages 15 to 29 years old. It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which can spread from one person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The bacteria causes inflammation of the cervix, rectum, or the throat. Chlamydia of the throat is not nearly as common as genital or rectal chlamydia, but it is possible.

This article discusses oral chlamydia, how to contract it, symptoms, treatment, and prevention methods.

Doctor doing a medical check-up on a woman's throat

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How Do You Get Oral Chlamydia?

A person can get oral chlamydia by giving vaginal, penile, or anal oral sex to another person already infected with the bacteria. 

Chlamydia trachomatis can also be spread from an infected person’s throat to the penis. Research has not shown that the infection can spread from an infected person’s throat to the vagina or rectum during oral sex.

Chlamydia does not seem to spread through kissing.

Gonorrhea Transmission

In contrast to chlamydia, research has shown that oral sex is much more likely to spread gonorrhea to the throat, including through kissing. 

How Common Is It?

Oral chlamydia is not as common as genital chlamydia. Research shows that approximately 10% of people who visited a sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic had genital chlamydia, but only 1.5% also had an infection in the throat.

Genital gonorrhea is not as common as genital chlamydia, but oral gonorrhea is more common than oral chlamydia.

Symptoms of Oral Chlamydia

Most of the time, people with oral chlamydia do not have any symptoms. The only major symptom that is likely to occur is a sore throat, which can be confused for other conditions like strep throat or the common cold.

Complications of Oral Chlamydia

Chlamydia of the throat does not lead to complications in that area. The biggest concern with oral chlamydia is that people without symptoms are more likely to continue having sex and spreading the infection to other people.  

Long-standing chlamydia infection most commonly leads to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection and inflammation of the uterus and fallopian tubes. People with PID often have difficulties getting pregnant or are at risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Chlamydia infection can also cause an inflammatory reaction throughout the body that causes joint pain or conjunctivitis, an inflammation or infection in the eye. 

Increased Risk of Other STDs

The CDC states that infection with chlamydia to any area—genitalia, anus, or throat—also increases a person’s risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

What It Looks Like

Symptoms of oral chlamydia look very similar to tonsillitis or strep throat. The throat will be red, and the tonsils will be swollen. White spots might appear on the back of the throat. In addition, a person might feel swollen lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.

The most accurate way to know whether you have oral chlamydia is through swab testing. Testing for chlamydia outside of the genital area is not a routine part of STD screening, which means that throat infections can go undiagnosed and untreated.

Untreated chlamydia of the throat could be a reason for the ongoing spread of the disease.

How to Treat Oral Chlamydia

Oral chlamydia is treated in the same way as other chlamydia infections: with antibiotics. The CDC recommends:

Alternative treatments include: 

  • Azithromycin in a single dose
  • Levofloxacin once a day for seven days 

A single dose of azithromycin may be the simplest way to treat chlamydia. However, people have developed resistance to this antibiotic, whereas doxycycline has a nearly 100% cure rate.

After being diagnosed with a chlamydia infection, all sexual partners need to be told and treated as well. You should also refrain from having any sex for seven days after completing treatment.

Chlamydia is easily treated and cured, but you can get chlamydia again. If you are sexually active, it is essential to test for sexually transmitted infections regularly.

How to Prevent Oral Chlamydia

Abstinence is the only way to completely prevent chlamydia infection. However, barrier devices such as a condom or dental dam can significantly reduce the risk of giving or receiving a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia.

Another way to reduce the risk of infection is to maintain a monogamous sexual relationship with a partner who is not infected with chlamydia.

Summary

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection, but chlamydia of the throat is not very common. Although symptoms from oral chlamydia are rare, if they do develop, they will probably be confused with strep throat. Long-standing infection with chlamydia can lead to a widespread inflammatory reaction and pelvic inflammatory disease, so it's important to seek testing regularly if you are at risk for the infection. Chlamydia is easily treated, but prevention is the best method to avoid infection.

A Word From Verywell

Oral chlamydia is not very common, but it could mean that you have chlamydia of the vagina or penis and are at risk of complications from a long-standing infection. Be sure to seek testing if you frequently contract sexually transmitted infections or if you have participated in sexual activity with an infected person. If you have any concerns about chlamydia, speak with a healthcare provider and seek testing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does chlamydia look like in the throat?

    Chlamydia of the throat looks very similar to strep throat. However, most of the time, chlamydia of the throat does not cause any symptoms.

  • What happens if chlamydia goes untreated?

    Untreated chlamydia can lead to several complications, including:

    • Pelvic inflammatory disease and chronic pelvic pain that lead to problems getting pregnant
    • Epididymitis, inflammation of a tube near the testicle (fertility problems do not typically occur after chlamydia epididymitis)
    • Reactive arthritis, a diffuse inflammatory reaction in the body that leads to fever, joint pain, and eye inflammation
  • What does chlamydia feel like in the throat?

    Chlamydia of the throat feels similar to other throat infections and will likely include only a sore throat.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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