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Quick Facts

Gonorrhea

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

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What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). An STD is an infection that is spread from person to person by sexual contact. Gonorrhea infects your genitals and, in women, your fallopian tubes and ovaries. Fallopian tubes connect your ovaries (sex glands where your eggs are stored) with your uterus.

Sometimes, oral sex can cause a throat infection with gonorrhea. Anal sex can cause an infection in your rectum (where your poop is stored) with gonorrhea.

  • You can get gonorrhea through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected person

  • A pregnant woman can spread gonorrhea to her baby’s eyes during birth

  • Gonorrhea causes symptoms on your infected body part, but it can spread to other parts of your body, such as your joints or skin

  • If you're sexually active or pregnant, talk to your doctor about a screening test for gonorrhea

  • Doctors treat gonorrhea with antibiotics

A woman who has gonorrhea and doesn't get treated can get pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection in your uterus, fallopian tubes, or both. PID can also spread to your ovaries and your bloodstream. PID can damage your reproductive organs and make it difficult to have a baby.

A man who has gonorrhea can develop epididymitis, an infection of the epididymis. The epididymis is the coiled tube on top of each testicle. Epididymitis causes pain and swelling in your scrotum.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Women

  • Mild pain in your vaginal area

  • Yellow fluid from your vagina (vaginal discharge)

  • Feeling like you need to urinate (pee) more than usual

  • Pain when urinating

  • Very bad pain in your lower belly if you develop PID

Men

  • Mild to very bad pain when urinating

  • Yellow-green discharge (thick fluid) from your penis

  • Feeling like you need to urinate more than usual

  • Red and swollen opening of your penis

  • Painful swelling of the scrotum on one or both sides if you have epididymitis

Women and men

If your rectum (where your poop is stored) or anus (where your poop comes out) is infected, you may have pain and a thick, yellow discharge from your anus.

If your throat is infected, you usually won’t have any symptoms, but you might have a sore throat.

How can doctors tell if I have gonorrhea?

  • Doctors suspect gonorrhea based on your symptoms

  • To tell for sure, they’ll do tests on a sample from your penis, vagina, throat, or rectum

Your doctor may put a small cotton swab in your penis, throat, or rectum to get a sample of fluid to test. In women, your doctor will look in your vagina using a plastic speculum and swab the discharge from your cervix (the lower part of your womb that opens into your vagina).

If you're pregnant or are at higher risk of having gonorrhea, your doctor may do a urine test for gonorrhea when you don't have any symptoms. Women are at higher risk if they:

  • Are having sex and are under age 25

  • Ever had an STD

  • Do risky sexual activities (such as having many sex partners, not using condoms regularly, or participating in sex work)

  • Have a partner who does risky sexual activities

Men are at higher risk if they:

  • Have had sex with a man in the past year

Doctors may also test your blood or urine for other STDs because many people have more than one STD.

How do doctors treat gonorrhea?

Doctors will:

  • Give you a shot of antibiotics into a muscle

  • Give you antibiotics to take by mouth

  • Tell you to avoid having sex until you take all of your antibiotics to prevent spreading gonorrhea

  • Treat you in the hospital with antibiotics by vein (IV) if the infection spread to your joints

  • Test and treat your sex partner for gonorrhea