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Chlamydia in the throat: causes, symptoms, and more

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 chlamydia in the throat—including causes, possible symptoms, and more.

What causes chlamydia in the throat?

Chlamydia can be transmitted to the throat during oral sex, resulting in a pharyngeal infection. The infection can also be passed from the mouth to the genitals.

How common is chlamydia in the throat (pharyngeal chlamydia)?

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 STD clinics (which means these figures don’t apply to the general population. Less research has been done around the rate of pharyngeal chlamydia in men who have sex with women.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia in the throat?

Many people who contract 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 symptoms may include mouth pain, sores in the mouth, or pain in the throat when swallowing.

What does chlamydia in the throat look like?

Chlamydia in the throat may cause white spots to appear in the back of the throat or tonsils. These white spots may resemble tonsillitis.

Gonorrhea

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, 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

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, vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding, fever, and painful urination. Untreated PID may ultimately result in infertility or other health complications.

Seeking medical care

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 chlamydia is detected, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics (often taken orally) to treat the infectionThe same kind of antibiotics may be used to treat chlamydia in the genital area or chlamydia in the throat.

Common questions

How do you know if you have chlamydia in your throat?

Many people with chlamydia in the throat have no symptoms. The only way to know for certain if you have chlamydia in the throat is to get tested by a healthcare provider. Possible signs that you may have chlamydia in the throat include a sore throat that doesn’t go away, along with a low-grade fever; swollen lymph nodes; sores in the mouth; or white spots in the back of the throat.

How can you avoid getting oral chlamydia?

Practice safe sex consistently—such as using condoms during sex, including oral sex—to help lower your odds of contracting STIs like chlamydia. Making sure you regularly test for STIs is also important. Though it might not directly prevent you from getting oral chlamydia, routine STI testing can be a powerful way to detect an infection early on—before it’s been passed on to others or seriously affected your health.


To easily check for 7 common STIs (including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV), consider our at-home STD Test for women or men.


References

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.