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Gonorrhea Overview

On This Page: Overview | Symptoms | Causes | Risk Factors | Prevention 

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is very common and easily cured with prescription antibiotics. It is spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. There are an estimated 820,000 cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. each year. Many people with gonorrhea are unaware they have it because they often have mild or no symptoms.1

Gonorrhea is often called “the drip” or “the clap” and is especially common in young people in their teens and twenties. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive system including the cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus in women, and the urethra in both men and women. Gonorrhea can infect the penis, vagina, anus, throat, and (more rarely) eyes. If you don’t treat it, gonorrhea can lead to serious health problems or even infertility, which is why regular STD testing is important even if you feel healthy.

Take Charge of Your Health

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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Symptoms of Gonorrhea

Many men and most women with gonorrhea have no symptoms at all. 

Symptoms in men include:

  • Painful urination
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles

Symptoms in women include:

  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods

In both men and women, rectal infections can cause no symptoms or cause symptoms such as anal discharge, soreness, bleeding, or itching, or painful bowel movements.

Read more link about gonorrhea symptoms and complications

How Do You Get Gonorrhea?

The bacteria that cause gonorrhea is carried in semen, pre-cum, and vaginal fluids and can be transmitted during oral, vaginal, and anal sex with an infected partner, even if there is no ejaculation.

Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother to baby during childbirth.  A baby that contracts gonorrhea during childbirth may suffer blindness, joint infection, or a life-threatening blood infection. The CDC advises pregnant women to get tested and treated as necessary to prevent passing gonorrhea to the baby.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea, especially if they are having unprotected sex. That being said, certain groups of people have biological and behavioral factors that put them at higher risk. According to the CDC, sexually active teenagers, young adults, and African Americans have the highest reported rates of infection.

The CDC recommends at least yearly gonorrhea screening for:2

  • Women under 25
  • Women older than 25 if they have risk factors like new or multiple sex partners or partners with an STD
  • Men who have sex with men

How Do You Prevent Gonorrhea?

Not having vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the best way to avoid gonorrhea. That being said, if you are sexually active, safer sex with consistent use of protection like latex or polyurethane condoms and dental dams helps lower (though not eliminate) the risk of getting an STD.

Being mutually monogamous with a long-term partner who has tested negative can also help prevent infection. Having open conversations about sexual health and getting regularly tested with your partner(s) can help confirm your status and protect your health.

  1. “Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed Version).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm
  2. “Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/screening-recommendations.htm

Medically Reviewed by on February 3, 2020


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