Gonorrhea

Esta guía en Español Young men's version of this guide
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female gender symbolHave you heard of “the clap,” or “a dose,” or “a drip”? These are all names for gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a common STI caused by a bacteria.

How common is gonorrhea?

There are over 820,000 cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. every year.

Am I at risk?

Anyone having unprotected sexual contact with someone infected with gonorrhea can get gonorrhea.

How is gonorrhea spread?

Gonorrhea is spread through sex—oral, anal, and vaginal. Women are much more likely to catch gonorrhea from men than men are from women, but both can get it. Gonorrhea can also be passed to the eye by a hand or other body part carrying infected fluids.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

You may not have any symptoms if you have gonorrhea. Symptoms, typically develop within 2-10 days of getting infected however, they can take several months to show up. You can pass gonorrhea on to others whether or not you have symptoms.

Symptoms of gonorrhea in girls include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Pain in the lower abdomen (pelvic pain)
  • Irregular periods

Symptoms of gonorrhea in guys include:

  • Milky discharge from the penis
  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • Pain and swelling in one testicle

Symptoms of gonorrhea in both girls and guys include:

  • Sore throat (for gonorrhea in the throat)
  • Pain, discharge, and bleeding from the anus (from gonorrhea in the anus)
  • Redness, itching, or discharge of/from the eyes (from gonorrhea in the eye)
  • Joint swelling and skin rash (from gonorrhea in the joints)

How is gonorrhea diagnosed?

Your health care provider can diagnose gonorrhea by taking a urine sample, by testing discharge from the vagina, anus or urethra, or by doing a swab of the affected area (penis, vagina, cervix, anus, throat, eye). It’s important to get tested so your health care provider can treat you for the right disease (chlamydia and gonorrhea have similar symptoms but need different treatment).

Is there a cure for gonorrhea?

Yes. Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics prescribed by your health care provider. If you treat gonorrhea early, it is usually cured with antibiotics In recent years, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea has become resistant to some antibiotics (this means the drug no longer causes the bacteria to die), making it even more important for people infected to take all of their medicine on time. The earlier gonorrhea is treated, the easier it is to cure. If the infection goes untreated, it can spread and cause pelvic infections, which need a longer course of antibiotics. You may even need to be hospitalized if the infection becomes serious.

Is gonorrhea dangerous?

Gonorrhea can cause serious problems if it goes untreated. It can spread from one area of the reproductive tract to other surrounding parts. Girls who have had a pelvic infection with gonorrhea are more likely to have a pregnancy in the tube (“ectopic pregnancy”) or pelvic pain. There is also a risk of gonorrhea spreading into the bloodstream and causing fever, chills, blisters on the skin, or arthritis of the joints.

How can I prevent spreading gonorrhea?

  • If you think you have gonorrhea, you should stop having sex. As long as you have gonorrhea, you can pass it on to someone else. You need to wait until you have finished all treatment and your health care provider says you are cured.
  • Make sure you tell all current and past sexual partners that you have gonorrhea, since you could have infected them, or they may have spread it to you and others. If you find this difficult to do, talk to your health care provider about ways to make sure they are informed and treated.
  • You need to make sure that your sexual partner gets tested and treated (if infected) at the same time as you, so that you don’t re-infect each other.
  • Make sure you use a latex (or polyurethane if you are allergic to latex) condom every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

How can I avoid getting gonorrhea?

The best way to keep from getting gonorrhea is to not have sexual intercourse. If you decide to have sexual intercourse, make sure you use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.