Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infect the lining of the urethra, cervix, rectum, and throat or the membranes that cover the front part of the eye (conjunctiva and cornea).
Gonorrhea is usually spread through sexual contact.
People usually have a discharge from the penis or vagina and may need to urinate more frequently and urgently.
Rarely, gonorrhea infects the joints, skin, or heart.
Microscopic examination, culture, or DNA tests of a sample of the discharge or DNA tests of urine can detect the infection.
Antibiotics can cure the infection, but resistance to the antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea is becoming more common.
In the United States, the number of new cases peaked at 464 per 100,000 people in 1975. In 2009, the number of new cases decreased to 98.1 per 100,000—the lowest number since recording of this information began. However, the number of cases gradually increased in subsequent years and, in 2014, reached 110.7 per 100,000. Most of this increase is due to an increase in the number of men who are diagnosed with gonorrhea. Part of the explanation may be that gonorrhea is becoming more common among men who have sex with men, but other factors may also be involved.
Gonorrhea is almost always spread through sexual contact. After one episode of vaginal intercourse without a condom, the chance of spread from an infected woman to a man is about 20%. The chance of spread from an infected man to a woman may be higher.
If pregnant women are infected, the bacteria can spread to the eyes of the fetus during birth, causing conjunctivitis in the newborn. However, in most developed countries, infection is prevented because all newborns are routinely treated after delivery with medicated eye ointment.