This common sexually transmitted infection often causes no signs or symptoms. Learn more about treatment, prevention and possible complications.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), also known as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that infects both males and females. Gonorrhea most often affects the urethra, rectum or throat. In females, gonorrhea can also infect the cervix.
Gonorrhea is most commonly spread during vaginal, oral or anal sex. But babies of infected mothers can be infected during childbirth. In babies, gonorrhea most commonly affects the eyes.
Abstaining from sex, using a condom if you have sex and being in a mutually monogamous relationship are the best ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
In many cases, gonorrhea infection causes no symptoms. Symptoms, however, can affect many sites in your body, but commonly appear in the genital tract.
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in men include:
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women include:
Gonorrhea can also affect these parts of the body:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any troubling signs or symptoms, such as a burning sensation when you urinate or a pus-like discharge from your penis, vagina or rectum.
Also make an appointment with your doctor if your partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhea. You may not experience signs or symptoms that prompt you to seek medical attention. But without treatment, you can reinfect your partner even after he or she has been treated for gonorrhea.
The male reproductive system makes, stores and moves sperm. Testicles produce sperm. Fluid from the seminal vesicles and prostate gland combine with sperm to make semen. The penis ejaculates semen during sexual intercourse.
Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The gonorrhea bacteria are most often passed from one person to another during sexual contact, including oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.
Sexually active women younger than 25 and men who have sex with men are at increased risk of getting gonorrhea.
Other factors that can increase your risk include:
Untreated gonorrhea can lead to major complications, such as:
To reduce your gonorrhea risk:
Consider regular gonorrhea screening. Annual screening is recommended for sexually active women younger than 25 and for older women at increased risk of infection. This includes women who have a new sex partner, more than one sex partner, a sex partner with other partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
Regular screening is also recommended for men who have sex with men, as well as their partners.
To avoid getting gonorrhea again, abstain from sex until after you and your sex partner have completed treatment and after symptoms are gone.
To determine whether you have gonorrhea, your doctor will analyze a sample of cells. Samples can be collected by:
For women, home test kits are available for gonorrhea. They include vaginal swabs for self-testing that are sent to a specified lab for testing. You can choose to be notified by email or text message when your results are ready. You can view your results online or receive them by calling a toll-free hotline.
Your doctor may recommend tests for other sexually transmitted infections. Gonorrhea increases your risk of these infections, particularly chlamydia, which often accompanies gonorrhea.
Testing for HIV also is recommended for anyone diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Depending on your risk factors, tests for additional sexually transmitted infections could be beneficial as well.
Adults with gonorrhea are treated with antibiotics. Due to emerging strains of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that uncomplicated gonorrhea be treated with the antibiotic ceftriaxone given as a shot, called an injection.
After getting the antibiotic you could still spread the infection to others for up to seven days. So avoid sexual activity for at least seven days.
Your sexual partner or partners from the last 60 days also need to be screened and treated, even if they have no symptoms. If you are treated for gonorrhea and they aren't treated, you can become infected again through sexual contact. Make sure to wait until seven days after your partner is treated before having any sexual contact.
Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea who develop the infection can be treated with antibiotics.
You'll likely see your family doctor or a general practitioner. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
Make a list of:
For gonorrhea, questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Questions your doctor is likely to ask you include:
Abstain from sex until you see your doctor. Alert your sex partners that you're having signs and symptoms so that they can arrange to see their doctors for testing.