Essential Facts About Gonorrhea

Any sexually active individual runs the risk of contracting gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can cause serious health consequences if it is not treated correctly; it can be cured with the right medication.

Understanding Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can affect both men and women at any age. It can cause serious infections in the throat, rectum, and genitals. Gonorrhea is a rather common infection that is prevalent in people between the ages of 15 to 24.

How Does Gonorrhea Spread?

Gonorrhea can spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an individual who has the disease. In addition, a pregnant woman who has gonorrhea can pass it to her baby during childbirth.

How To Reduce The Risk

The only foolproof way of not contacting gonorrhea is to simply not have oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

How To Determine Your Risk

Any individual can get gonorrhea through unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

If you are a sexually active individual, it is best to have a discussion with your physician about your lifestyle and decide if you should be tested for gonorrhea as well as other STDs. If you are a man who has sex with other men, you should have yearly tests for gonorrhea. Women should be tested every year if you are 25 or younger or if you have new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner with an STD.

How Can Gonorrhea Affect My Baby?

If you are expecting a baby and have gonorrhea, it is essential to understand that the infection may be passed to your baby during delivery. This can lead to serious health complications for your baby. If you are pregnant, you should speak with your physician to ensure that you get the proper treatment, testing, and medication for your safety and that of the baby. The sooner you are treated for gonorrhea, the better it will be for your baby.

How To Tell If You Have Gonorrhea

Some men who may exhibit no symptoms at all. For those men who do show some symptoms, they may have:

  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • A green, white or yellow discharge from the penis
  • While less common, the testicles may become swollen or painful

Most women who develop gonorrhea will not show any symptoms as well. Even when a female does exhibit symptoms, they are usually mild and may be mistaken for a vaginal or bladder infection. Women who have gonorrhea are at risk for further medical complications.

Some of the various symptoms women can develop include:

  • A burning or painful sensation during urination
  • Increased vaginal discharges
  • Vaginal bleeding in between regular periods

Men and women both may suffer rectal infections with either no symptoms or symptoms which may include:

  • Anal itching
  • Discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Soreness
  • Painful bowel movements

If you notice any of these symptoms, or if your partner has STD symptoms, it is essential to speak with a physician.

How Will A Physician Know If I Have Gonorrhea?

Many times a physician will use a simple urine test in the search for gonorrhea. However, if you have had oral or anal sex, the physician may use swabs to collect samples from those areas for testing.  Sometimes samples from a man’s urethra or woman’s cervix may also be collected using a swab.

Is Gonorrhea Curable?

Yes, it is possible to cure gonorrhea with the right treatment. You need to use all the medication that your physician prescribes. You should not share any medication you receive for the treatment of gonorrhea. While medication will stop the infection, it cannot undo any damage that has already been caused.

As some drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are on the rise, it is becoming more challenging to treat these strains. If your symptoms continue after a few days after you have received treatment, you should return to your doctor for further treatment.

How Soon After Treatment Can I Have Sex Again?

It is best to wait a full seven days after finishing all your medications before having sex. To avoid getting gonorrhea again, or spreading it to other individuals, it is in everyone’s best interest to wait for the full treatment to be completed. If you had gonorrhea in the past and used medication, it is still possible to get infected again if you have unprotected sex with another individual who has gonorrhea.

What If I Do Not Get Treatment?

If gonorrhea goes untreated for an extended period of time it has the possibility of creating serious and permanent health conditions in both men and women.

In women, it can lead to the development of pelvic inflammatory disease. Some typical complications of this disease include:

  • Long term pelvic and/or abdominal pain
  • Infertility
  • Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb)
  • Formation of scar tissue that blocks the Fallopian tubes

In men, gonorrhea can lead to a painful condition in the tubes connected to the testicles. In limited cases, this can lead to sterility (the inability to father a child). While rare, the infection can pass to the blood and joints, if left untreated – this can be life-threatening. In addition, leaving gonorrhea untreated can increase the chances of giving or getting HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).

Where can I get more information?

STD information and referrals to STD Clinics


1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)

TTY: 1-888-232-6348

In English, en Español

Content source: Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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