Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that typically affects the mucous membranes of the vagina, penis, and anus. However, it can sometimes infect the mucous membranes of the throat.

a doctor shining a light in a man's throat to check for ChlamydiaShare on Pinterest
In some instances of chlamydia, a person may experience redness and soreness of the throat.

Chlamydia of the throat can sometimes cause a sore throat, but it often does not produce any symptoms. In some people, the infection develops in both the throat and the genitals.

In this article, we outline the symptoms, appearance, and causes of chlamydia in the throat. We also provide information on chlamydia transmission, testing, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Finally, we discuss the outlook for people with chlamydia of the throat and answer some frequently asked questions about the disease.

Most cases of chlamydia do not cause any symptoms. For example, researchers estimate that only 10% of males and 5–30% of females with confirmed cases of chlamydia develop any symptoms at all. For people with chlamydia of the throat who do experience symptoms, these may include redness and soreness of the throat or mouth.

Even if a person does not have any symptoms, the infection can still pass from them to others. This is also the case for chlamydia of the genitals.

A chlamydia infection can spread through genital-to-genital contact or pass from the genitals to the throat.

Chlamydia most commonly affects the genitals, where it can cause various symptoms.

If symptoms occur, they often begin 1–3 weeks after the initial infection.

Learn more about when chlamydia symptoms appear.

People may describe chlamydia in the throat as “extra-genital,” which means that it developed somewhere other than the genitals.

The majority of people who get chlamydia in the throat do not show any symptoms. However, if a person does develop symptoms, they will most likely experience a sore throat due to inflammation.

Other possible symptoms of chlamydia in the throat include:

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection. People can contract chlamydia as a result of coming into contact with vaginal fluid or semen that contains the bacteria. This contact can occur through:

  • having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • having genital-to-genital contact
  • sharing unwashed sex toys or using them without barrier protection
  • getting infected semen or vaginal fluid in the eye

Oral sex is not a common way of contracting chlamydia because the bacteria prefer the mucous membranes of the vagina, penis, or anus to those of the throat. However, if a person does develop chlamydia in the throat, oral sex is the most common cause.

A person cannot get chlamydia through:

  • kissing
  • hugging
  • sharing towels or clothes
  • coming into contact with a toilet seat

Learn which other STIs a person can get from oral sex.

A person can develop chlamydia of the throat through oral contact with the penis or vagina of a person who has chlamydia. Likewise, a person can develop chlamydia of the genitals after receiving oral sex from a person who has chlamydia of the throat.

A person who has chlamydia may be unaware that they have it, as the infection does not always cause symptoms. For this reason, it is important to use barrier protection during vaginal, anal, or oral sex and to undergo regular testing.

In addition to regular testing, people can also receive an occasional STI check. This can be especially helpful if:

  • there are any signs of an infection
  • a sexual partner has had a positive test result
  • a person is pregnant

People in the following groups may benefit from yearly chlamydia testing:

  • older females who have new or multiple sexual partners
  • females younger than 25 years who are sexually active
  • people with HIV

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend taking the following steps to prevent the spread of STIs through oral sex:

  • using latex or plastic condoms that are not lubricated
  • using a dental dam during vaginal or anal contact
  • avoiding sexual contact if sores are present in the mouth
  • having regular STI checks

When diagnosing chlamydia of the throat, a doctor will use a cotton swab to obtain a fluid sample, which they will send to an external lab for bacterial testing.

The standard test for chlamydia starts with a vaginal swab for females and a urine sample for males. As chlamydia of the throat is an extra-genital form of the disease, accurate and comprehensive testing would require an additional swab of the throat.

A person who has symptoms of chlamydia in the throat or has had oral sex without using barrier protection may need to request a throat swab in addition to the vaginal swab or urine sample.

If the results of the chlamydia test are positive, the person should inform any recent sexual partners so that they can also undergo testing and receive treatment if necessary.

Learn about using home test kits to diagnose chlamydia in the throat.

The treatment for chlamydia typically involves antibiotics, which may be in the form of a single dose or a 7-day course.

A person who takes the single dose should avoid sexual contact for 7 days. A person who takes the 7-day course can resume sexual activity after completing the course.

As the risk of a repeated infection is high, a person should get another test about 3 months after their treatment.

Below are some answers to common questions about chlamydia in the throat:

How long does chlamydia of the throat take to show up?

Most people who have chlamydia of the throat will not experience any symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they typically appear 1–3 weeks after sexual contact with the individual who has the infection.

It is important to note that chlamydia can still transmit from a person who does not experience any symptoms of the disease.

Is chlamydia of the throat common?

Although chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States, chlamydia of the throat is uncommon.

A small 2021 study involving 140 men who have sex with men (MSM) found that 1.4% of the participants had chlamydia of the throat.

Other research has shown that extra-genital chlamydia is as common in women as it is in MSM.

Engaging in sex with people who carry the bacteria without using barrier protection can contribute to the spread of the infection.

Chlamydia of the throat is not common. However, a person can contract chlamydia of the throat as a result of performing oral sex on a person who has chlamydia.

People can prevent chlamydia and other STIs by using a barrier method, such as a condom or dental dam, during all forms of sexual activity. It is also important to undergo regular STI checks. Anyone who receives a positive test result should notify all recent sexual partners so that they can receive treatment if necessary.

A doctor can treat chlamydia with a short course of antibiotics. However, due to the high risk of reinfection, people who have tested positive for chlamydia should take additional precautions during sexual activity.