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Gonorrhea Symptoms

On This Page: Symptoms | Women Symptoms | Men Symptoms | Throat, Anus & Eye | Complications

Gonorrhea is a common bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be transmitted during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It’s easily curable with prescription antibiotics, but many people don’t know they have it because signs of infection are often vague or silent. Without proper treatment, gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent damage, which can affect your ability to have a child.

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Untreated gonorrhea can lead to infertility​ in both men and women and make you more susceptible to contracting​ ​additional STDs​. Gonorrhea is an STD that is easily cured with antibiotics. Order quick and confidential testing today.

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What Are Gonorrhea Symptoms?

Gonorrhea often doesn’t have symptoms, so many people don’t know they or their sexual partner(s) are infected. In fact, 10-15% of men and about 80% of women with gonorrhea show no symptoms.1 Even when symptoms do occur, they can be so mild that they’re easily overlooked or confused with other infections, which is why getting tested is important.

When symptoms appear, for men, they usually begin 2-7 days after infection. However, it can take as long as 30 days for symptoms to begin. For women, when signs are present, they typically appear within 2-10 days of infection but can take several months to begin.2

Gonorrhea Symptoms in Women

Most women don’t show symptoms of gonorrhea. When symptoms do appear, the signs are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection.

Gonorrhea symptoms in women can include:

  • Increased vaginal discharge that may be bloody, yellowish, or watery and green
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Bleeding between periods

Gonorrhea Symptoms in Men

Some men with gonorrhea have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, men can experience slightly different symptoms compared to women.

Gonorrhea symptoms in men can include:

  • Yellow-white or green-white discharge from the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Testicular or scrotal pain or inflammation

Symptoms in the Throat, Anus, and Eye

In both men and women, gonorrhea can affect the throat if you have oral sex, and the rectum if you have anal sex with an infected sex partner. Often, these conditions don’t show symptoms.

More rarely, gonorrhea can cause an eye infection if infected bodily fluid enters the eye. This can happen through direct contact with the fluid or if you rub your eyes after touching infected fluid.

Signs of gonorrhea in the throat can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Signs of anal gonorrhea can include:

  • Itching in and around the anus
  • Pain when pooping
  • Discharge from anus

Signs of gonorrhea in the eye can include:

  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Discharge from the eye(s)

If you think you were exposed to or are experiencing symptoms of gonorrhea, visit your doctor or get tested quickly at a local testing center.

Complications If Gonorrhea Is Left Untreated?

Although gonorrhea is common and often asymptomatic, untreated gonorrhea can lead to serious, sometimes permanent health complications.  Due to inflammation, an active gonorrhea infection can also increase the likelihood of contracting HIV.3

Untreated Gonorrhea in Women

Untreated gonorrhea in females can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause chronic pelvic/abdominal pain, dangerous ectopic pregnancies (pregnancy where the embryo attaches outside the uterus), and infertility.4

Complications During Pregnancy

If a pregnant woman has gonorrhea, she can pass the infection to her baby through the birth canal during delivery. If this happens, the baby can suffer blindness, joint infection, or even a life-threatening blood infection. To reduce the risk of health complications for your baby, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends women who are at risk get tested starting early in their pregnancy.5

Untreated Gonorrhea in Men

Untreated gonorrhea in males can cause epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, which stores and carries sperm), which can lead to sterility.6

Infection That Spreads To Joints and Other Parts of the Body

In rare cases (about 0.5-3% of infected patients), gonorrhea can spread to other areas of the body, including blood, skin, heart or joints. This potentially fatal condition is called disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI) or gonococcal arthritis, and it can develop within two weeks after being infected with gonorrhea.7 It can cause fever, rash, skin sores, joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

What Can You Do?

Quick diagnosis and treatment of gonorrhea are key to preventing serious health complications. If you feel embarrassed or alone, know that gonorrhea is common and easily curable. Getting regularly tested for gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections helps people who are sexually active know and protect their sexual health.

  1. “Gonorrhea Gonococcal Infection.” New York State Department of Health. https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/gonorrhea/fact_sheet.htm
  2. “Gonorrhea.” Center for Young Women’s Health. https://youngwomenshealth.org/2013/10/08/gonorrhea/
  3. “STIs: What Role Do They Play in HIV Transmission?” Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. https://www.catie.ca/en/pif/spring-2012/stis-what-role-do-they-play-hiv-transmission
  4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  https://www.cdc.gov/std/pid/stdfact-pid.htm
  5. “Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed Version). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm
  6. “Epididymitis.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/epididymitis.htm
  7. “Disseminated Gonococcal Infection Presenting as Vasculitis: A Case Report.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1860604/

Medically Reviewed by on February 3, 2020


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