Last updated: September 16, 2019
Kate Killoran M.D.
Obstetrics & Gynecology
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Asking a new sexual partner to get tested is never a comfortable topic for discussion. Unfortunately, it is a reality of sex with a new partner-even if you aren’t having penetrative sex.
While more than 1.5 million people are infected with chlamydia each year, the real number is likely much higher. That is because this bacterial infection, often called the ‘silent disease’ is likely largely under diagnosed. A mixture of a lack of symptoms and failure to test makes this sexually transmitted infection the most common.
While chlamydia usually infects the mucous membranes of the genitals or anus, it can also infect other areas of the body, including the throat. Oral chlamydia, while less common, can also be spread through unprotected oral sex.
What is Oral Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is an infection caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. This bacteria lives in the mucous membranes of the body. While that usually means the cervix in women or the urethra or anus in men and women, it can also mean the throat or the eyes. Chlamydia in the throat is called a pharyngeal chlamydia infection.
This bacteria can be present in sperm or vaginal fluid. Getting this fluid in your eye or throat is one way that it is spread. It can also be spread through oral sex.
History of Chlamydia
The most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States was discovered in Berlin in 1907 by Stanislaus von Prowazek. The bacteria was named by forming two Greek words: chlamys which means cloak and trachomatis means rough or harsh. This title is fitting as the bacterial infection it causes is often asymptomatic which is a nod to the cloak and can have serious repercussions if not treated.
How is Oral Chlamydia Spread?
With 50% of men and 75% of women experiencing no symptoms while infected with Chlamydia, regular screenings are important to prevent the spread of this STD.
While many may consider penetrative sex without a condom ‘risky behavior’ chlamydia can also be spread through oral sex. It is less common than genital or anal chlamydia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the risks of getting oral chlamydia increase if:
- You perform oral sex on a male that has an infected penis.
- You perform oral sex on a female that has an infected vagina or urinary tract.
- You perform oral sex on a male or female that has an infected rectum.
Related: What STDs cause Bartholins Cyst
You are also at risk when receiving oral sex from an infected partner. You are at risk if:
- You receive oral sex on the penis from a partner with chlamydia in the throat.
- You receive oral sex on the vagina from a partner with chlamydia in the throat. This can result in chlamydia of the vagina or urinary tract.
- You receive oral sex on the anus from a partner with chlamydia in the throat
Myths About Chlamydia
Chlamydia is spread by kissing-While oral chlamydia is possible, it is not spread by kissing. It is spread through unprotected oral sex with an infected partner.
Chlamydia is spread through the use of public toilets–Chlamydia cannot be spread through sharing personal items
Related: Do I have Gonorrhea?
Symptoms of Oral Chlamydia
While some cases of oral chlamydia may be asymptomatic or mild, others are hard to detect because they mimic other infections.
Signs of chlamydia usually manifest within 1 to 3 weeks of infection but in some cases it may take longer.
- The most commonly experienced symptom is a persistent sore throat that can last for days. The discomfort may be consistent or intermittent.
- Pain when swallowing
- Low grade fever
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Painless sores in the mouth
- Lesions around the mouth that can appear similar to cold sores
- Redness with white spots resembling strep throat
- Scratchy, dry throat
Who is at Risk?
According to the CDC, the rate of infection for chlamydia is highest in sexually active women 25 and under. It is important to get yearly screening, especially if you have a new sexual partner.
It is important to get screened during pregnancy as chlamydia can be passed onto your unborn child. It is also important to use protection during oral sex as well as pentrative sex.
Those who are Considered High Risk for Contracting Oral Chlamydia Include:
- Men and women who receive oral sex without a condom or dental dam
- Men and women who perform oral sex without a condom or dental dam
- Those who engage in oral sex with an infected partner
- Those who engage in oral sex with multiple partners
How is Chlamydia Diagnosed?
While genital chlamydia is diagnosed with a urine test along with a swab on the cervix or tip of the penis, oral chlamydia is much less invasive.
To test for this bacterial mouth infection the throat is swabbed. It is also possible to have chlamydia in the throat as well as the genitals at the same time.
How is Chlamydia Treated?
When caught early, chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics. The longer it is left untreated, the more difficult it is to treat the infection.
Chlamydia is treated with a full round of oral antibiotics. It is recommended that any person that you have had sexual contact with in the last 60 days also be treated. This is an important step in preventing a further spread of the infection.
It is possible to get reinfected with chlamydia. It is also important that your partner gets screened and treatment. This will avoid potentially passing the infection back and forth between you.
It is possible to spread chlamydia while on antibiotics. It is advised to avoid sexual contact for seven days after you complete a full round of antibiotics. Even if you are no longer experiencing any symptoms. It is recommended to get retested three months after you complete your treatment.
Oral chlamydia cannot resolve itself without treatment.
Importance of Screening
Chlamydia is the most common notifiable disease. While screening efforts have expanded over the past 20 years, many at risk women are still not being tested. While oral chlamydia is less common, it is still a risk.
Oral sex without protection is still a risky behavior and can result in chlamydia.
How to Prevent Oral Chlamydia
- Use condom or dental dams every time when having oral sex with a new partner or a partner who could potentially be infected.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. Those with multiple partners are at higher risk
- Avoid sexual contact with partners who have not been tested
- Get tested regularly and make sure your partners do the same
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Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Kate Killoran M.D.
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