Woman cupping her neck with her hand while wondering about chlamydia in the throat

Chlamydia in the Throat: Causes, Symptoms, and More

Medically reviewed on Oct 15, 2023 by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD. 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.

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Chlamydia in the throat—is it possible? The answer to that question is yes.

Although chlamydia infection—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). [1]

Read on for key information about the throat chlamydia bacterium—including causes, possible chlamydia symptoms, and more to protect your sexual health.

What Causes Chlamydia in the Throat?

The chlamydia bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, most commonly infects the cervix of people assigned female at birth (AFAB). In people assigned male at birth (AMAB), the bacterium is typically present in the urethra. That said, people AFAB are more likely to have the infection. [2]

While you’re more likely to get chlamydia in the genital areas through sexual intercourse, the chlamydia bacterium can be transmitted to the throat during oral sex with an infected sex partner, resulting in a pharyngeal infection or extra-genital chlamydia. The sexually transmitted infection can also be passed through sexual contact from the mouth of an infected partner to one's genitals. [3]

How Common Is Chlamydia in the Throat (Pharyngeal Chlamydia)?

A pharyngeal chlamydia infection isn’t as common as urogenital or rectal infections. In fact, it’s quite unlikely. The chlamydia bacteria prefer the mucous membranes of the genitals or anus, rather than the tongue or throat. [4]

That said, it’s not entirely impossible.

In a 2021 study, researchers discovered that of the study’s 140 participants (men who have sexual intercourse with men (MSM)), 1.4% acquired pharyngeal chlamydia. Its duration is also relatively low compared to other STIs. [5]

Another review of existing studies found that pharyngeal chlamydia was equally frequent in women compared to men who have sexual contact with men, as well as in men who have sex with women. All groups had a median occurrence of the sexually transmitted infection between 1.6-1.7%. [6]

What Are the Symptoms of Early Stage Chlamydia in Throat?

Many people who contract oral or pharyngeal chlamydia (chlamydia in the throat) have no chlamydia throat symptoms. People with symptoms of the sexually transmitted disease will start to notice signs of the infection within one to three weeks after sexual activity with an infected partner. The most common symptom is a sore throat. Accordingly, it’s not uncommon for people with throat chlamydia to mistake the infection for other types of conditions, such as allergies, strep throat, flu, colds and/or acid reflux.

Chlamydia in the throat may also cause STD white spots on tonsils or in the back of the throat. 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.

Other possible chlamydia throat symptoms include [7]:

  • Mouth pain
  • Oral sores (canker sores in the mouth)
  • Pain in the throat when swallowing
  • Bumps on the tongue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue

If you are experiencing white spots on the back of the throat, it is highly suggested to get it checked out by a healthcare provider.

In some cases, untreated chlamydia can lead to additional infections, such as [3]:

  • Cervicitis – In people AFAB, the cervix may become inflamed, which can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, and pain during sex.
  • Urethritis – As a lower urinary tract infection, urethritis causes inflammation of the urethra in both people AFAB and AMAB.
  • Proctitis – Proctitis refers to the inflammation of the rectum, which can cause pain, bleeding, and discharge.

These infections can further progress into more serious infections, like pelvic inflammatory disease. [3]

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 [8]:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Fever
  • Painful urination

Untreated, PID may ultimately result in infertility or other health complications. [8]

In the case of throat chlamydia, the infection can cause gingivitis disease and periodontal disease. The former, also caused gum disease, can cause inflammation that may progress into periodontal disease. In both cases, patients can experience:

  • Dental pain
  • Gum bleeding
  • Tooth loss

Furthermore, chlamydia can also exist concurrently with gonorrhea, another type of bacterial STI, caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which can affect the genitals, rectum, and throat. [9]

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, abnormal uterine bleeding, and/or rectal or testicular pain. [9]

Seeking Medical Care

If you have a consistent sore throat, STD symptoms, and/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. Particularly, it’s important to seek regular STI testing if you’re within a high-risk group, which includes [10]:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Trans women
  • People engaged in sex work
  • People who have had sexual activity with someone infected with an STI

Healthcare providers most commonly use Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) to diagnose extra-genital chlamydia infections of the throat and rectum. Testing for pharyngeal chlamydia frequently involves the collection of a throat swab, which is then checked for indicators of this bacterial infection. [10]

If you develop symptoms after 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 healthcare provider 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 infection. The same kind of antibiotics may be used to treat chlamydia in the genital area or chlamydia in the throat. These include [11]:

  • Doxycycline
  • Azithromycin

You should not engage in sexual activity until you’ve finished treatment. When taking azithromycin, you must wait an additional seven days after finishing your medication to ensure the infection is completely eradicated. [11]

Left untreated, chlamydia can increase your chance of getting or transmitting HIV, a sexually transmitted virus that attacks the immune system. [12]

To easily check for 6 common STIs (including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV), consider our at-home STD Test for women or men.

You can also opt for sexual health testing year-round through the Everlywell+ STI testing membership, giving you easy access to a wide of variety of STI test options.

  1. Chlamydia trachomatis. Mayo Clinic. Published April 14, 2023. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  2. Mohseni M, et al. Chlamydia. StatPearls. Published August 8, 2023. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  3. Chlamydia – CDC Detailed Fact Sheet. CDC. Published April 11, 2023. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  4. How is chlamydia transmitted? NCC. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  5. Khosropour C, et al. Incidence and Duration of Pharyngeal Chlamydia Among a Cohort of Men Who Have Sex With Men. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Published September 1, 2022. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
  6. 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. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  7. Chlamydia. Planned Parenthood. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  8. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  9. Gonorrhea – CDC Detailed Fact Sheet. CDC. Published April 11, 2023. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  10. Chlamydia trachomatis/Neisseria gonorrhoeae (CT/NG) – Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT). PHO. Published May 8, 2023. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  11. Treatment-Chlamydia. NHS. Published September 1, 2021. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  12. STD Risk and Oral Sex – CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  13. Sexually Transmitted Infections. HIV.gov. URL. Accessed October 10, 2023.
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