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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 were over 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported in the U.S. in 2014,  but there were probably many more cases that weren’t identified.

Am I at risk?

If you are having unprotected sexual contact with another person, you may be 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 more likely catch gonorrhea from men than men are from women. Although less likely, women can also acquire gonorrhea from female sexual partners. Gonorrhea is highly transmissible between male sexual partners. 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 that do develop typically appear within 2-10 days of getting infected; however, symptoms 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 peeing
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis
  • Irregular periods

Symptoms of gonorrhea in guys include:

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

Symptoms of gonorrhea in both girls and guys include:

  • Sore throat (from 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 testing a urine sample or a swab of the affected area (penis, vagina, cervix, anus, throat, eye). It’s important to get tested so your health care provider can tell you whether you have gonorrhea, another STI, or negative results.

Is there a cure for gonorrhea?

Yes. Gonorrhea infection is treated 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). This means it is 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 a more seriou infection, which will need a longer course of antibiotics. You may even need to be hospitalized to treat the infection.

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 inflammation (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. Your health care provider will tell you if it is ok for you to resume sexual activity.
  • It is important that your current and recent sexual partners know that they have been exposed to someone with gonorrhea so that they can be tested and treated. Otherwise, your partner(s) can give gonorrhea to other people or back to you. If you find it difficult to tell your partners, talk to your health care provider about ways to make sure they are informed and treated.
  • It is also important that your sexual partner(s) are treated and have been told that they can resume having sex before you have sex with them again.
  • 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.