What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of the genitals, anus, or throat.
Gonorrhea grows in moist, warm areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacteria can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus. Sometimes, but rarely, gonorrhea can spread to the blood and joints.

How do you get gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is spread by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics, usually an injection. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Both partners should abstain from sex until the infection is gone. People with gonorrhea should be tested for other STDs.

What happens if I don't treat gonorrhea?

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a condition that may lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, internal abscesses (pus-filled "pockets" that are hard to cure), and ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb). In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility if left untreated. In addition, people with gonorrhea can more easily contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

How do you test for gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is tested either by a urine sample or a swab of the infected area (cervix, urethra, throat, or anus).

When is it safe to have sex again after treatment?

You may start to feel better within a day of treatment, but you are not cured yet. You should use condoms or abstain from sex for one week following treatment to avoid being reinfected or infecting others.

Do I need more tests after I've been treated?

Sometimes you will be asked to take another test within 3 months after your treatment is finished to make sure you have been effectively treated.

Should my sexual partners also be treated?

Yes. If you have gonorrhea, it is extremely important to tell all your sexual partners in the last 3 months that you have been diagnosed with gonorrhea and to ask them to get tested and treated.

How do I prevent gonorrhea?

There is no vaccine for gonorrhea. Abstaining from sex and sexual contact is the surest way to avoid getting an STD. Using condoms every time reduces the risk of getting STDs. If you or your partner tests positive, you should abstain from sex until the infection is gone.

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Most women do not have any signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur they may include:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Discomfort passing urine
  • Pelvic pain, especially during intercourse
  • Anal discharge and discomfort
  • Sore, dry throat


The symptoms of gonorrhea depend upon the site of infection. Some men, especially those with anal or throat gonorrhea, do not have any signs or symptoms. When symptoms occur they usually include:

  • Thick, yellow, or white discharge from the penis
  • Pain or discomfort passing urine
  • Redness around the opening of the penis
  • Anal discharge and discomfort
  • Sore, dry throat