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Gonorrhea is a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).


The infection is caused by bacteria. It spreads during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner.

Risk Factors

Gonorrhea is most common among sexually active young adults.

Other things that raise your chances of getting it are having:

  • A new sex parter
  • More than one sex partner
  • Sex without a condom
  • Prior STIs


Most people who have gonorrhea do not have symptoms. If they do happen, they may appear 1 to 14 days after exposure. In some cases, they do not happen for a month.

Men may have:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Burning while urinating
  • Itching in the urethra

Women may have:

  • Burning while urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Belly pain
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

Rectal symptoms in both men and women are:

  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Painful stools

Gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in both men and women. You will need to seek care.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:

  • Joints
  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on:

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Urine tests
  • Tests of genital fluid
  • Tests of oral fluids


Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Some strains have resisted this them. You and your doctor will work together to find one that works for you.

All of your sex partners should be tested and treated. Do not have sex until you and your partners are done with treatment and symptoms are gone.


To lower your chances of getting gonorrhea:

  • Abstain from sex.
  • Have sex with only one partner.
  • Always use a latex condom during sexual activity.
  • Use a cervical diaphragm during sex.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Health Canada

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada


Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/arg/default.htm. Updated April 6, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Gonococcal cervicitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113822/Gonococcal-cervicitis. Updated March 14, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Gonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115615/Gonococcal-urethritis. Updated March 14, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/. Updated October 6, 2017. Accessed August 2, 2018

Screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Dec 16;161(12):902-10.

Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 8/2/2018