Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on January 31, 2020. Written by Karen Eisenbraun. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Can you get chlamydia in the throat? The answer to that question is “yes”: although chlamydia—one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States—often affects parts of the body like the genitals or rectum, it can also infect one’s throat (known as a pharyngeal chlamydia infection).
Read on for key information about the chlamydia bacterium in the throat—including causes, possible symptoms, and more.
If you think you may have contracted chlamydia from unprotected sex with an infected partner, consider taking our at-home Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Test. Our testing kit is discreet and easy to use, making it a convenient way to check for these STDs from the privacy of home.
The chlamydia bacterium can be transmitted to the throat during oral sex with an infected sex partner, resulting in a pharyngeal infection. The infection can also be passed from the mouth of an infected partner to one's genitals.
Pharyngeal chlamydia isn’t as common as urogenital or rectal infections. One review of existing studies found that pharyngeal chlamydia was equally frequent in women compared to men who have sex with men—occurring in up to 3.2% of women and 3.6% of men who have sex with men, based on study populations at high-risk settings like sexually transmitted disease clinics (which means these figures don’t apply to the general population. Less research has been done around the rate of pharyngeal chlamydia among men who have a female sexual partner.
Many people who contract oral chlamydia (chlamydia in the throat) have no symptoms. Some people may experience only a sore throat and think they have the flu or a cold. Other possible symptoms of a pharyngeal infection with chlamydia bacteria include mouth pain, oral sores (canker sores in the mouth), or pain in the throat when swallowing. In rare cases, chlamydia bumps on the tongue have also been seen. If you are experiencing white spots on the back of the throat, it is highly suggested to get it checked out by a doctor.
Chlamydia in the throat may cause white spots to appear in the back of the throat or tonsils. If you have swollen tonsils and any other symptom that resembles a strep throat infection, it may be wise to still get tested for chlamydia. These white spots may resemble tonsillitis that are caused by a bacterial infection.
Gonorrhea is another bacterial STI that can affect the genitals, rectum, and throat. Caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, gonorrhea often exists alongside a chlamydia infection (according to some estimates, 70% of people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia).
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea may not cause any symptoms—but in some cases, gonorrhea signs and symptoms may include abnormal genital discharge, pain when urinating, pain during intercourse, fever, or sore throat.
Check for urogenital (not oral) chlamydia and gonorrhea infections from the privacy of home with the Everlywell at-home Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a condition that affects the female reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. It often occurs when a chlamydia or gonorrhea infection in the cervix spreads to these organs. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding, fever, and painful urination. Untreated PID may ultimately result in infertility or other health complications.
If you have a sore throat that doesn’t seem to go away, or you notice white spots in the back of your throat, consider asking your healthcare provider if they recommend testing for chlamydia in the throat. Testing for pharyngeal chlamydia frequently involves the collection of a throat swab, which is then checked for indicators of this bacterial infection. If you have had unprotected sex with an infected person, it is essential that you get tested as soon as possible. In fact, your symptoms may resemble a strep throat infection. If you've already done a strep test and your symptoms are still present, talk to your doctor about the possibility of getting tested for an STD.
If chlamydia is detected, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics (often taken orally) to treat the sexually transmitted infection. The same kind of antibiotics may be used to treat chlamydia in the genital area or chlamydia in the throat.
Many people with chlamydia in the throat have no symptoms. The only way to know for certain if you have this sexually transmitted infection in the throat is to get tested by a healthcare provider. Possible signs that you may have oral chlamydia include a sore throat that doesn’t go away, along with a low-grade fever; swollen lymph nodes; oral canker sores; or white spots in the back of the throat.
In some cases, one might confuse these chlamydia symptoms with strep throat or some other kind of throat infection. That's why testing for STDs is so important, so consult with your healthcare provider if you suspect you may have been infected with an oral sexually transmitted disease.
Chlamydia is known to infect the oropharynx, a part of the throat that's behind the mouth. So technically speaking, chlamydia can infect the throat instead of the mouth directly. However, chlamydia in women and men can be transmitted through the mouth of an infected partner during certain sexual activities like oral sex.
Practice safe sex consistently—such as using condoms during sex, including oral sex—to help lower your odds of contracting STIs like chlamydia from a sex partner. Making sure you regularly test for STIs is also important, especially if you may have been involved with an infected person. Though it might not directly prevent you from getting oral chlamydia, routine STI testing can be a powerful way to detect a chlamydial infection early on—before it’s been passed on to others or seriously affected your health. Because untreated chlamydia increases one's risk of long-term health complications, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you think you might be infected or if you test positive.
1. Chan PA, Robinette A, Montgomery M, et al. Extragenital Infections Caused by Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae: A Review of the Literature. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. 2016;2016:5758387. doi:10.1155/2016/5758387
2. Vonck RA, Darville T, O'Connell CM, Jerse AE. Chlamydial infection increases gonococcal colonization in a novel murine coinfection model. Infect Immun. 2011;79(4):1566-1577. doi:10.1128/IAI.01155-10
3. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed January 31, 2020.