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Gonorrhea 101

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

What is it

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea also can infect different parts of the body, including the rectum, the vagina, the cervix, the penis (specifically, the urethra),

How do you get it

Gonorrhea can be spread through oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who is infected, even if a condom was used. Unlike some illnesses, there is no immunity to gonorrhea after being treated, so it’s possible to get it multiple times.

Gonorrhea is most common among young, sexually active people. The likelihood of getting it is increased if you have many partners and/or don’t consistently use a condom. It’s also possible to be transmitted from mother to child during birth.

What are the symptoms

Gonorrhea does not have any symptoms for 80% of women, and for 10-15% of men.

In men, Gonorrhea may not have any symptoms. If present, Gonorrhea will cause

  1. A burning sensation when urinating

  2. A white, yellow or green discharge from the penis

  3. Painful/swollen testicles

In women, it is very rare for Gonorrhea to be symptomatic. Even when present, symptoms are usually quite mild and easily misdiagnosed. The common symptoms for women are:

  1. Painful/burning sensation when urinating

  2. Increased vaginal discharge

  3. Vaginal bleeding outside of menstruation

Rectal infections can occur in both men and women. Symptoms, if present, are:

  1. Rectal discharge

  2. Anal itching

  3. Soreness

  4. Rectal bleeding

  5. Painful bowel movements


Gonorrhea is diagnosed through a lab test, which requires a urine sample and a swab sample of any areas which may have been exposed to infection (eg; oral, vaginal, rectal)

Anyone with symptoms is strongly recommended to get tested for Gonorrhea. Other than that, newly pregnant women and sexually active adults with new or multiple partners should get tested annually.


Treatment for Gonorrhea is quite simple; either a single high dose or a seven day course of antibiotics can be used to cure the infection. However, if left untreated Gonorrhea can lead to infertility in both men and women. In some very rare cases, the infection can spread to the blood or joints, which can be fatal. Untreated Gonorrhea also makes it between 3-50 times more likely to get HIV/AIDS, depending on other risk factors.

After completing the treatment, it’s important to wait a minimum of 1 week to ensure that the antibiotic has time to properly eradicate the infection.

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