This incredibly common STD is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis but is easily cured with a round of antibiotics.
It’s transmitted through penetrative sex which includes vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who carries the infection. And yes, you can still get chlamydia even if semen isn’t part of the equation.
Chlamydia is really common.
Chlamydia is a SUPER common bacterial infection that you can get from sexual contact with another person. Close to 3 million Americans get it every year, most commonly among 14-24-year-olds.
Chlamydia is spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The infection is carried in semen (cum), pre-cum, and vaginal fluids.
Chlamydia can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, eyes, and throat. Most people with chlamydia don’t have any symptoms and feel totally fine, so they might not even know they’re infected.
Chlamydia can be easily cleared up with antibiotics. But if you don’t treat chlamydia, it may lead to major health problems in the future.
That’s why STD testing is so important — the sooner you know you have chlamydia, the faster you can cure it. You can prevent chlamydia by using condoms every time you have sex.
How do you get chlamydia?
Chlamydia is usually spread during sexual contact with someone who has the infection. It can happen even if no one cums.
The main ways people get chlamydia are from having vaginal sex and anal sex, but it can also be spread through oral sex.
Rarely, you can get chlamydia by touching your eye if you have infected fluids on your hand. Chlamydia can also be spread to a baby during birth if the mother has it.
Chlamydia isn’t spread through casual contact, so you CAN’T get chlamydia from sharing food or drinks, kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or sitting on the toilet.
Using condoms and/or dental dams every time you have sex is the best way to help prevent chlamydia.
Who is at risk for chlamydia?
This STD is particularly common in young people. According to a CDC report, “chlamydia prevalence among sexually active persons aged 14-24 years is nearly three times the prevalence among those aged 25-39 years.”
It is more prevalent among young women because at that age the cervix is still developing and is much more susceptible to the bacteria.
Additionally, the vagina and cervix provide more surface area than the penis, which makes it easier for women to contract the bacteria.
Whether chlamydia symptoms are present or not, untreated chlamydia can travel to the upper genital tract and cause serious health problems.
In women, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and cause permanent damage leading to infertility or potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. In men, untreated cases can lead to epididymitis, which can, but very rarely does, cause sterility.
Problems chlamydia may cause:
According to the CDC, chlamydia can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID. This can produce pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy.
While chlamydia is most harmful to women, men can still be affected. In men, the tube that carries sperm from the testicles can become infected, causing pain, fever, and although rare, infertility.
When chlamydia occurs in the throat, it is considered a mouth infection. If there are symptoms (typically, there are none), they make it look a lot like tonsilitis.
The infection causes white spots to appear in the back of the throat and can make it painful to swallow.
How do you get chlamydia in the mouth?
When oral sex is performed on infected genitals, the giver is at risk of contracting chlamydia in the throat. Oral sex involves using the mouth, lips, or tongue to stimulate the penis, vagina, or anus of a sexual partner.
The risk of getting an STD from oral sex depends on things like the particular STD, the sexual activity performed, and how common the STD is in the population to which the sex partners belong. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the risks of getting chlamydia in the throat increase if:
- You are performing oral sex on a male that has an infected penis.
- You are performing oral sex on a female that has an infected vagina or urinary tract.
- You are performing oral sex on a male or female that has an infected rectum.
The opposite is also true. The risks of getting genital chlamydia are increased if:
- You are receiving oral sex on the penis from a partner with chlamydia in the throat.
- You are receiving oral sex on the vagina from a partner with chlamydia in the throat can result in chlamydia of the vagina or urinary tract.
- You are receiving oral sex on the anus from a partner with chlamydia in the throat also might result in chlamydia in the rectum.
The infection can also be transferred from your fingers to other parts of your body, such as your eyes, nose, or mouth. Aside from sexual activities that easily spread chlamydia, there are a few other factors that will further increase your chances of getting this mouth infection.
The CDC states having poor oral health that results in tooth decay, gum disease (bleeding gums), or oral cancer increases the chances of acquiring the infection.
This is due to a lowered immune system not being able to fight off both the oral hygiene infections and the invading chlamydia.
Is oral chlamydia a common thing?
If you think that neither you nor your partner belong to a population where chlamydia can spread, think again.
In the United States, there are over 1.5 million cases of chlamydia reported each year. However, the CDC estimates that at least 3 million actually occurred.
Why the disparity in the numbers? In a survey done in 2013, only 30% of sexually active people from 15-25 reported testing the previous year.
Remember the saying, “If you sleep with one person, you’re also sleeping with the five other people they’ve slept with, and the five other people each of those people have slept with.”
The spider web never ends. This means that that person from the New Year’s party in 2016 that your partner’s first partner’s partner slept with, ended up (probably unknowingly) giving you and the next person you sleep with an STD.
Imagine what the number of cases of chlamydia in the U.S. actually is if people tested for STDs as often as they should.
Many people believe that only those who “have a risky sex life” are likely to get STDs. The truth is anyone sexually active at all is at risk to contract an STD.
If we could remove the stigma attached to STD testing, we’d all be much more likely to get tested. The United States would be able to do a little better in sexual health education, slow down the rates of STDs, and catch up with the rest of the developed world.
Of all the groups, teens and young adults have the highest rates of infection. The most common bacterial STD is chlamydia.
Symptoms of Oral Chlamydia
Oral chlamydia infections affect the cells lining the throat. Most people with an oral chlamydia infection experience no symptoms, which leaves many unaware that they are infected. A true confirmation of oral chlamydia is only detected with testing.
For those that do experience symptoms, the most common symptom is a sore throat which lasts for several days. This discomfort can come and go, or it can be continually bothersome.
Forget about drinking anything to make it better; just swallowing hurts too. A sore throat caused by chlamydia may be accompanied by a low-grade fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Some other possible symptoms of oral chlamydia are:
- Painless sores in the mouth
- Lesions similar to cold sores around the mouth
- Redness with white spots resembling strep throat
- Scratchy, dry throat
The possible symptoms of genital chlamydia are:
- Potentially bloody discharge from the vagina or penis
- Burning feeling when urinating
- Painful or swollen testicles
- Rectal pain
Diagnosis & Treatment
Testing for oral chlamydia is usually done by swabbing the throat. After the diagnosis and confirmation, chlamydia can be cured with prescribed antibiotics.
In order to avoid passing the STD to your partner and in turn giving yourself chlamydia again later, you should abstain from sex for the 7 days you are on antibiotics.
If caught early enough, chlamydia is easy to cure. The longer you go without treatment, the more likely it will go from mild to severe.
Once it becomes severe, it can cause serious reactions in the body and make the healing process difficult, and, often times, the damage is irreversible.
If left untreated for too long:
STDs are not one of those illnesses that will just figure itself out. Not only will you spread chlamydia if you continue to have sex without treatment, but you can end up with some serious complications on your hands.
Chlamydia can cause reproductive complications in women. It can spread to and infect the uterus and fallopian tubes, resulting in infertility, miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth.
If the pregnancy reaches full term, there can be complications in newborns as well as the postpartum mother when chlamydia has gone untreated.
Half of the newborns get conjunctivitis (chlamydia in the eye), and they can also get urethritis. Mothers can get nose, throat, lung, and/or ear infections.
In men, a progressed chlamydial infection can result in urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), inflammation of the prostate, and infertility.
It is also possible that chlamydia can cause a reaction throughout the body that causes arthritis (joint pain).
Other possible repercussions are conjunctivitis (pink eye), proctitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the rectum from anal sex), open sores in the genital area, headache, fever, fatigue, lymphogranuloma venereum (swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin), and/or a rash on the soles of the feet or elsewhere.
How to avoid getting oral chlamydia
Be aware of the status of your new partner. We understand that this can be an uncomfortable conversation for some, so if you need help, check out our blog post for some tips.
Aside from talking to your partner about their status, you can also use protection, such as condoms. Not using protection is part of the reason why so many people end up with STDs like chlamydia.
These precautions may not be seen as “fun,” but, if your sexual health is a concern, as it should be, the following are ways to protect yourself from getting oral chlamydia.
When engaging in oral sex on the penis, use a condom or another barrier method each and every time you have oral sex.
When performing oral sex on the vagina or anus, use a dental dam or cut open a condom to make a square, then put it between the mouth and the partner’s vagina or anus.
Avoiding all forms of sex is really the only way to truly avoid getting an STD. If this doesn’t seem like a realistic route, you can lower your chances by being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected with an STD.
Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease that is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. It is a common STD that is contracted during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Chlamydia can also be spread by sharing unclean sex toys.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 2.86 million chlamydia infections annually, making it the most frequently reported bacterial STD in the U.S.
Often, people with chlamydia do not show any signs or symptoms of the infection. Therefore, chlamydia can be spread easily, since chlamydia carriers typically do not realize they have it.
Which is why getting tested for chlamydia is so important. If symptoms appear, they typically occur within 2-21 days after exposure.
Chlamydia most frequently infects the cervix, urethra, or rectum, but it can also be spread to the throat during oral sex. The infection can spread to the eye if an infected area is touched and then the eye is touched.
Pregnant women with chlamydia can pass the infection to their babies during childbirth. Chlamydia is especially harmful to infants and can cause infections that result in pneumonia and even blindness.
Symptoms of chlamydia sometimes differ between men and women.
Symptoms in men can include:
- Discharge from the penis
- Burning/itching sensation during urination
- Pain/swelling in one or both testicles (less common)
- Rectal pain or bleeding (when contracted in the rectum)
Symptoms in women can include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pain during intercourse (less common)
- Abdominal pain (less common)
- Bleeding between periods (less common)
- Rectal pain or bleeding (when contracted in the rectum)
For both men and women, chlamydia is commonly asymptomatic, meaning that it displays no symptoms at all.
Chlamydia can be Treated and Cured with Antibiotics
Individuals diagnosed with chlamydia should abstain from sexual activity for one week after finishing antibiotics. Keep in mind that it is possible to become reinfected with chlamydia after receiving treatment.
This is why it is crucial for partners of those who have chlamydia to also get tested and treated if found positive. Chlamydia often occurs along with gonorrhea(another bacterial STD).
If you have one of these STDs, you might have the other because the risk factors and symptoms are very similar. Getting tested for both is important.
Whether or not symptoms are present, testing or screening for chlamydia can be done as early as 24 hours after exposure.
The incubation times vary from person-to-person; for the most accurate results, get tested two weeks after initial exposure.
If you test positive for chlamydia, it is advised to get retested two weeks after completing treatment to be sure that all of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria is cleared from your system.
How do you test for chlamydia?
Nucleic Acid Amplification (NAA)
The three NAA tests described below (urine, swab, and DFA) work by finding the DNA of chlamydia bacteria.
Because NAA tests search for the bacteria’s genetic material, it is very unlikely that a false-positive test result will occur.
The incubation period for chlamydia is 1-5 days, so wait at least five days after potential chlamydia exposure before getting tested to ensure the most accurate results possible.
Urine samples (recommended test method)
- Testing via urine samples needs to consist of first-catch urine (approximately 20-30mL of the initial urine stream). Patients should not include more than the first-catch in the collection cup to avoid diluting the sample.
- Patients should not urinate for at least one hour prior to providing a sample.
- Female patients should not cleanse the labial area prior to providing the specimen.
- Endocervical swab
- Male urethral swab
- Vaginal swab
- Rectal swab
- Pharyngeal swab (throat swab) if the throat is infected
Direct Fluorescent Antibody (DFA)
- Swab cultures
- Endocervical swab
- Male urethral swab
- Rectal swab
- Neonates conjunctival swab
Why shouldn’t you get tested for chlamydia via a blood test?
Testing chlamydia with a blood test requires that a small blood sample is drawn and then tested for antibodies to the chlamydia bacteria: Chlamydia trachomatis.
Chlamydia is not a blood-borne disease or infection, but the body creates antibodies to respond to various diseases and infections, and these can be found in the blood.
The test can detect if antibodies to chlamydia are present, but these antibodies could be the result of a previous chlamydia infection. This would result in a false positive.
Because chlamydia blood tests cannot tell for certain if an individual has chlamydia at the time of the test, only whether or not the individual has had it in the past, this type of test should not be used to diagnose chlamydia.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); Antibodies, IgM
- IgM antibodies are found mainly in the blood and lymph fluid; they are the first antibody to be made by the body to fight a new infection.
- This blood sample’s results should not be used as a diagnostic procedure without confirmation of the diagnosis by another medically established diagnostic product or procedure.
Enzyme immunoassay (EIA); Antibodies, IgG
- IgG antibodies are the most abundant type of antibody; they are found in all body fluids and protect against bacterial and viral infections.
Cell Culture and Subsequent Detection of Chlamydia by Fluorescent Antibody Test Method
- A culture allows the chlamydia bacteria to grow, but results take longer (typically 5 to 7 days) than the other tests and must be done in a lab.
- Although culture is the legal standard, it is not the gold standard for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis.
- Women should not douche or use vaginal creams/medicines for 24 hours before having a chlamydia test.
- Test options for cell cultures include:
- Conjunctival swab
- Cervical swab
- Rectal swab
- Posterior nasopharynx/throat swab
- Urethral swab
- Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD in the United States.
- Chlamydia is a curable bacterial STD that doesn’t usually show signs or symptoms.
- Chlamydia can cause infertility in women and sterility in men if left untreated.
- Chlamydia can be transmitted to newborns during delivery and cause serious health complications like blindness and pneumonia.
- Chlamydia is particularly common in young people (aged 14-24) and is especially prevalent among young women.
- Co-infection of chlamydia and gonorrhea is common.
- Chlamydia can infect the genitals, rectum, throat, and eyes.
- Nucleic Acid Amplification (NAA), via either urine or swab, is considered the best option in testing for chlamydia.
- Get tested for chlamydia! It is curable and easily treated.
What are the complications of chlamydia?
In women, an untreated infection can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system.
This can lead to long-term pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have had chlamydia infections more than once are at higher risk of serious reproductive health complications.
Men often don’t have health problems from chlamydia. Sometimes it can infect the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm). This can cause pain, fever, and, rarely, infertility.
Both men and women can develop reactive arthritis because of a chlamydia infection. Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens as a “reaction” to an infection in the body.
Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. It may also make it more likely for your baby to be born too early.
Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV/AIDS.
What are the treatments for chlamydia?
Antibiotics will cure the infection. You may get a one-time dose of the antibiotics, or you may need to take medicine every day for 7 days. Antibiotics cannot repair any permanent damage that the disease has caused.
To prevent spreading the disease to your partner, you should not have sex until the infection has cleared up.
If you got a one-time dose of antibiotics, you should wait 7 days after taking the medicine to have sex again.
If you have to take medicine every day for 7 days, you should not have sex again until you have finished taking all of the doses of your medicine.
It is common to get a repeat infection, so you should get tested again about three months after treatment.