Gonorrhea is type of sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Treatment includes antibiotics, partner notification and lifestyle changes.
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted from an infected partner during sex. This can happen during oral, vaginal or anal sex.
Gonorrhea is most common among sexually young adults. Other factors that increase your chances of getting gonorrhea include:
- Being sexually active
- Multiple sex partners
- Having sex without a condom
- History of STDs
Most people who have gonorrhea do not have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may appear 1-14 days of exposure. In some cases, symptoms do not occur for up to a month.
Symptoms in men may include:
- Discharge from the penis
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Itching sensation in urethra
Symptoms in women may include:
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
Symptoms in men and women with rectal infections may include:
- Anal itching
- Painful bowel movements
Gonorrhea can also cause serious health complications.
Complications in men include:
- Epididymitis — A painful swelling and inflammation of the testicles, which may lead to infertility.
- Urethritis — The inside of the urethra may become inflamed, which causes burning when passing urine. If scarring occurs, it may cause difficulty with passing urine, or block urine flow completely.
- Prostatitis — An inflammation of the prostate gland. Symptoms include pain in and around the groin and pelvis, or discomfort when urinating. It may also create flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches, or fatigue.
Complications in women include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — A serious infection that can lead to infertility, even in women who never have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include pelvic pain and pain with intercourse. PID causes scar tissue, or may cause an abscess to form, in the fallopian tubes.
- Infection in a newborn infant if you are infected during pregnancy.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on tests.
Tests may include:
- Nucleic acid test — Discharge or urine is tested for genetic material found in gonorrhea.
- Laboratory culture — A smear of the discharge is taken and sent to a lab. After two days, the culture is checked for growth of the bacteria.
- Other STD tests, such as chlamydia, syphilis or HIV.
Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Some strains of gonorrhea have developed resistance to certain antibiotics. You and your doctor will work together to find an antibiotic that is effective.
It is important to take all medication as prescribed. Also, all of your sexual partners should be tested and treated. Do not have sex again until you and your partners have completed treatment and no one has symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
To reduce your chances of getting gonorrhea, take these steps:
- Always use a latex condom during sexual activity.
- Have routine check-ups for STDs if you are under the age of 25.
- Have check-ups often if you have other risk factors for getting STDs.
- Have a monogamous relationship. Monogamous means only one sexual partner.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.