Gonorrhea is a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).
The infection is caused by a bacteria. It spreads during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner. It can also spread from a mother to her baby during birth.
Gonorrhea is most common among sexually active young adults.
Other things that raise your chances of getting it are having:
- An STI or had one in the past
- A new sex partner
- More than one sex partner
- A sex partner with an STI
- Not using a condom or not using it properly if you or partner are having sex with more than 1 person
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:
- Painful stools
Gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in both men and women. You will need to seek care.
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Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:
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
- Throat culture
- Test of fluid in joint, blood or fluid around the spine but this is less common
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.
- Use a latex condom during sexual activity if you or partner are having sex with more than 1 person.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
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 December 31, 2019.
Gonococcal cervicitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113822/Gonococcal-cervicitis. Updated March 14, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Gonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115615/Gonococcal-urethritis. Updated March 14, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/. Updated October 6, 2017. Accessed December 31, 2019.
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 December 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 12/31/2019