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Oral chlamydia is a chlamydia infection that is found in the mouth or throat. It can potentially occur after having oral sex with an infected partner. Most cases of chlamydia, including those that occur in the throat, do not have any symptoms. Although genital chlamydia infections are far more common, it’s important to seek treatment if you get oral chlamydia and take steps to prevent chlamydia infections in the throat.
What Is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It is one of the most common STIs in the United States.
When a chlamydia infection occurs, it typically causes no symptoms. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications, including damage to the reproductive system. One of the biggest concerns for women with untreated chlamydia is pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection that occurs in the reproductive organs and may lead to chronic pelvic pain, pregnancy problems, and infertility.
Oral Chlamydia Transmission
Chlamydia is transmitted during sexual contact with an infected partner. A chlamydia infection may develop in the genitals, the rectum, or the mouth and throat. The bacteria target the cells of mucous membranes, which are located in all of these areas.
Oral chlamydia can potentially develop in the mouth and throat after performing oral sex on an infected partner. This could include mouth-to-penis, mouth-to-vagina, or mouth-to-anus contact. Oral chlamydia infections do not occur as a result of mouth-to-mouth kissing. Overall, infections of chlamydia in the mouth or throat are not common compared to infections in the genitals or rectum.
Someone with oral chlamydia can spread the infection to a partner during oral sex. This includes performing oral sex on the genitals or rectum.
Symptoms of Chlamydia
Chlamydia is often called a “silent” infection because most people who have it do not experience any symptoms. Whether someone has a chlamydia infection in their genitals or rectum, many people don’t realize they have it unless they get tested.
When they do occur, symptoms of chlamydia are different based on where the infection is located and, in the case of genital chlamydia, the gender of the infected person. Usually, these symptoms do not appear until several weeks after exposure.
Genital chlamydia infections, which are most common, may produce the following symptoms:
- In women:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Burning sensation when urinating.
- Unusual vaginal discharge.
- Spotting between periods.
- Low back pain.
- Lower abdominal pain.
- Pain during sex.
- In men:
- Discharge from the penis.
- Burning sensation when urinating.
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles.
Rectal chlamydia infections can potentially lead to the following symptoms:
- Rectal pain.
- Discharge from the anus.
Oral chlamydia infections in the mouth or throat may cause the following symptoms:
- Sore throat with a scratchy, dry feeling.
- Mouth pain.
- Redness in the throat or mouth with white spots, similar to strep throat.
- Painless mouth sores.
- Lesions around the mouth that look like cold sores.
- Redness with white spots resembling strep throat.
Oral Chlamydia Risk Factors
There are a few risk factors that could potentially increase your chances of acquiring an oral chlamydia infection. If you have any of the following, you may be more susceptible to getting chlamydia in your throat:
- Poor oral health.
- Tooth decay.
- Gum disease.
- Bleeding gums.
- Oral cancer.
- Weakened immune system.
Oral Chlamydia Diagnosis and Treatment
To test for oral chlamydia, most doctors will do a swab of your throat. That swab will be tested for presence of the bacteria.
In most cases, chlamydia is easy to cure. Your local or Nurx™ medical provider can prescribe you with antibiotics. It’s important to take the full antibiotic regimen (which usually lasts for one week) before you have sex to avoid spreading the infection to any partners.
Many people don’t realize they have chlamydia since it typically does not produce any symptoms. Unfortunately, the longer you go without treatment for chlamydia, the more serious the infection will be. If the infection becomes severe, it may cause serious health complications or irreversible damage. Routine STI screenings are highly recommended, especially for sexually active young men and women.
Oral Chlamydia Prevention
Chlamydia can be transmitted even when penetration does not occur. With oral chlamydia, that means that you can get chlamydia in the mouth or throat even if your tongue does not enter the vagina or rectum or you do not put a partner’s penis all the way inside your mouth. Therefore, it’s best to use a condom from the very beginning of sexual contact so that no skin contact occurs.
Some of the oral chlamydia prevention methods you can use include:
- Having your partner wear a condom during mouth-to-penis contact.
- Using a dental dam when performing oral sex on the vulva, vagina, or anus.
- Cutting a latex condom to lay it flat or using household plastic wrap as a DIY barrier method when performing oral sex.
It’s also important to talk to your partners about their status before you have sex. Then, you can discuss in more detail what methods of protection you can use to reduce the risk of transmission.
Chlamydia by the Numbers
Check out these statistics to learn even more about chlamydia:
- Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., with about 2.86 million infections occurring each year.
- It is most common among younger people who are sexually active. Nearly two-thirds of new chlamydia infections occur in people ages 15-24.
- Women have higher rates of chlamydia than men. Approximately 1 in 20 sexually active women ages 14-24 has a chlamydia infection.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease affects about 10% to 15% of women with untreated chlamydia.
- When looking at cases of chlamydia by race, reported cases are highest among Black, American Indian, and Pacific Islander men and women.
- The rate of chlamydia infections in the U.S. increased 19.4% from 2014-2018.
Oral chlamydia may not be as common as genital chlamydia, but it’s still cause for concern. Be sure to use protection when having oral sex and get routine screenings to stay on top of your STI status.
Chlamydia, Office on Women’s Health, April 2019