Chlamydia in the Throat: Symptoms, Risks, Causes & Treatment

Chlamydia is a well-known infection that primarily affects the genital area but it can also present itself in the throat, a condition known as pharyngeal chlamydia or, in more common terms, oral chlamydia.

Chlamydia in the throat typically results from performing oral sex on someone who has chlamydia. Most of the time, the infection does not show any symptoms in the throat and can go unnoticed. When symptoms do appear, they can include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, or swollen lymph nodes. It is typically treated with antibiotics, and it can lead to complications if left untreated.

Key takeaways:

  • Chlamydia can also affect the throat, a condition referred to as pharyngeal or oral chlamydia.
  • Oral chlamydia is usually transmitted through performing oral sex on an infected partner.
  • Most of the time, oral chlamydia does not show any symptoms.
  • When symptoms do appear, they may include a sore throat, redness in the mouth or throat, pain or difficulty swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • It is diagnosed by performing a throat swab and testing it for the presence of chlamydia bacteria.
  • Oral chlamydia can be effectively treated with antibiotics and if left untreated, it can lead to complications and make you more vulnerable to other infections.
  • Practicing safe sex and getting tested regularly can help prevent the spread of chlamydia and other STIs.

Continue reading to learn more about symptoms, risks, causes, and treatment options for chlamydia in the throat.

Table of Contents

What Is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can affect both men and women. It can spread when having vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has chlamydia, and it can also pass from a mother to her baby during childbirth.

A chlamydia infection results from the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.

Can You Get Chlamydia in Your Throat?

STDs primarily affect the genital areas, but some types of STDs, including chlamydia, can also be spread through oral sex and affect the throat. When chlamydia affects the throat, it is called a pharyngeal chlamydia infection.

Chlamydia bacteria, however, more often infect the groin than the mouth, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not consider chlamydia a significant form of throat infection.

How Common Is Pharyngeal Chlamydia?

While less common than its genital counterpart, pharyngeal chlamydia is not a rarity, particularly among certain populations with specific sexual practices.

The prevalence of pharyngeal chlamydia in the general population tends to be lower compared to genital chlamydia. However, this data can be somewhat misleading due to the lack of routine screening for pharyngeal chlamydia in many healthcare settings.

Unless individuals present specific risk factors or symptoms for pharyngeal chlamydia, they might not be tested for this type of infection. So the actual number of cases could be higher than the reported figures suggest.

Symptoms of Chlamydia in the Throat

In most cases, those with chlamydia in the throat will have no symptoms. Sometimes, someone with chlamydia may have a sore or swollen throat, but it is common to mistake this symptom as being from the flu, common cold, or strep throat.

Overall symptoms of chlamydia in the throat may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Mouth pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Redness in the mouth or throat
  • White spots in the back of the throat or tonsils
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue

What Does Chlamydia in the Throat Look Like?

Chlamydia in the throat causes the throat to appear more red than usual. In some individuals, chlamydia in the throat may also present with white spots on the tonsils or back of their throat.

Beyond a sore throat, chlamydia in the throat may also cause the tongue to feel bumpier.

What Causes Chlamydia in the Throat?

Someone contracts chlamydia when their mucus membranes come into contact with the chlamydia bacteria, which can be present in the mucous membranes of a sexual partner. Some examples of mucous membranes include the penis, vagina, or rectum. In the case of chlamydia infection, the bacteria enter the mucus membrane and then begin multiplying, causing infection.

If you give oral sex to someone who has chlamydia in the genitals, you may end up with the bacteria in your throat, causing infection. However, it is not possible to spread chlamydia in the throat from mouth-to-mouth kissing.

How Is Chlamydia in the Throat Diagnosed?

To diagnose chlamydia in the throat, doctors use a simple method called a swab test. They use a swab, like a long cotton bud, to take a small sample from the throat. This sample is then tested with a special lab test called a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). NAAT is good at finding the chlamydia bacteria, even if there’s not a lot of it.

Testing for chlamydia in the throat is not a routine STD screening test, and therefore doctors will only perform it if they suspect an individual has been exposed to the infection through oral sex with an infected partner.

Risks of Chlamydia Infection in the Throat

Having chlamydia can make you more vulnerable to other STDs, such as HIV, and the CDC states that having chlamydia in the throat might increase the risk of contracting HIV.

Having chlamydia in the throat can also increase your vulnerability to other infections. This is because your body is focused on fighting the chlamydia infection and is less able to prevent other infections. Because of this, those with chlamydia in the throat might be more susceptible to tooth loss, mouth infection, dental pain, and gum disease.

Leaving chlamydia untreated also comes with risks, including:

  • Increased risk of preterm delivery in pregnant women
  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Inflammation of the upper genital tract
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Perihepatitis

It is important to see a doctor right away if you have chlamydia and think that you are experiencing any of these complications. Without proper treatment, some of these medical issues related to chlamydia can be irreversible.

How Is It Treated?

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, and doctors will often prescribe the same antibiotic to treat all types of chlamydia, whether the infection is centered in the throat or groin.

Doxycycline and azithromycin are two antibiotics commonly prescribed for chlamydia infections. These antibiotics help to slow or stop bacterial growth, ridding your body of the infection.

When receiving treatment, it is crucial to refrain from oral sex or intercourse for at least seven days if you take a one-time antibiotic dose. If your prescribed course of antibiotics is longer, you should wait until you have taken all your medication before engaging in sexual activities.

It is important to continue taking your antibiotics for the complete course as prescribed, even if your symptoms have gone away. Stopping your medication early increases the risk of a recurrent infection.

Even if you finish your medication as prescribed, though, chlamydia still has a high recurrence rate, meaning it is possible to get this type of infection again even if you follow your treatment as prescribed.

How to Prevent Pharyngeal Chlamydia?

The best way to prevent pharyngeal chlamydia is to practice safe sex. This includes using condoms or dental dams during oral sex with new or untested partners. It is also important to get tested regularly for STDs, including chlamydia, as part of routine healthcare.

If you are unsure about your partner’s sexual history or have any concerns, it is also recommended to get tested before engaging in sexual activities.

By practicing safe sex and getting tested regularly, you can help prevent the spread of chlamydia and other STDs, protecting your own health as well as that of your partners.

When to See a Doctor?

Screening for chlamydia in the throat is not a standard part of STD testing, so if you have a sore throat that won’t go away or a partner who has tested positive for chlamydia that you have had oral sex with, it is often recommended to ask your doctor about screening for chlamydia in the throat.

Your doctor may swab your throat to check for chlamydia, sending the swab to a laboratory that tests for the presence of DNA from the bacteria responsible for chlamydia.

If the test comes back positive for chlamydia, your doctor can get you started on antibiotics to clear the infection. 

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In Conclusion

Chlamydia is a common STD that results from bacterial infection of the genitals, rectum, or throat. It is spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has chlamydia, and while chlamydia most commonly infects the genitals, it can infect the throat.

Many cases of chlamydia in the throat have no symptoms, while some may have symptoms that resemble strep throat. Chlamydia is easily treatable, which is why it is important to see a doctor whenever you think you have chlamydia or if you have had sexual intercourse with a partner who has chlamydia.

Treatment consists of a course of antibiotics, which are crucial for preventing potential complications from chlamydia infection.

The risk of recurrence in chlamydia is high, so it is important to always be aware of the signs of chlamydia in the throat and see a doctor right away whenever you suspect you have this STD.

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

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