Tell Me More About Gonorrhea

What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria and used to be known as 'the clap' or the 'drip'. It’s sexually transmitted, and most people with Gonorrhea don’t have symptoms.

How Common Is It?

Very common. Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States, especially among young people ages 15-24 years.

How Is It Transmitted?

Gonorrhea is spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The infection is carried in semen (cum), pre-cum, and vaginal fluids. Gonorrhea can infect your penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, throat, and eyes (rare).

Gonorrhea can be passed on very easily and you can get it from:

  • vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom or dental dam, with someone who has gonorrhoea (even if they don’t have symptoms)
  • sharing sex toys without washing them and covering with a new condom each time they are used
  • close genital contact – this means you can get gonorrhoea from someone if your genitals touch, even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation

It’s also possible to have a Gonorrhea infection in your eye, if your eye comes into contact with semen or vaginal fluids from someone with the infection. This, however, is rare.

Pregnant women with Gonorrhea can pass the infection on to their babies at birth.

What About Symptoms?

Signs and symptoms can also often be overlooked and many people with Gonorrhea don’t have any symptoms at all (or they are very mild). If you do get symptoms, you may not notice them until several weeks after infection. In others it can take a number of months or until the infection spreads to other parts of the body. 

Symptoms for women include:
  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods
Symptoms for men include:
  • a burning sensation when urinating
  • a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common)
Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include:
  • discharge
  • anal itching
  • soreness
  • bleeding
  • painful bowel movements
How Do I Get Tested?

Most of the time, urine can be used to test for Gonorrhea. However, if you have had oral and/or anal sex, swabs may be used to collect samples from your throat and/or rectum. In some cases, a swab may be used to collect a sample from a man’s urethra (urine canal) or a woman’s cervix (opening to the womb).

What If I Have Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection. Medication for Gonorrhea should not be shared with anyone. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not undo any permanent damage caused by the disease.

Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea

It is becoming harder to treat some Gonorrhea, as drug-resistant strains of Gonorrhea are increasing. If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to a health care provider to be checked again.