What is Gonorrhea?

A sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.


  • Gonorrhea seems to be transmitted almost exclusively through sexual contact.
  • Sexual activity, vaginal, oral, or anal sex, with an infected partner is riskier for women than for men.
  • For women, there is a 50% chance of contracting gonorrhea on a single exposure during vaginal sex, while for men, the risk is about 25%.
  • This difference is because the bacteria migrate less easily into the male urethra than into the female vulva, where they have more moist locations in which to multiply.
  • Of course the risk increases for both men and women with each repeated exposure.


  • While symptoms tend to appear quite quickly and are unpleasant for men, it is also possible for the infection to be mild and relatively asymptomatic. In men, within 2 weeks after infection, burning and itching sensations develop in the urethra, especially during urination. There is also a thick, pus-like discharge from the urethra, often spotting underwear.
  • Although up to 80% of women do not detect gonorrhea in its earlier stages, its most typical early symptom is a green or yellow discharge from the cervical area, where the bacteria tend to strike first. There may then be some vaginal irritation or irregularities in menstruation.


  • If gonorrhea is not treated in its early stages, the initial symptoms usually disappear, however, the bacteria often move to other organs, causing more serious infections and complications.
  • In men, it may affect the bladder, prostate, kidneys, or epididymis of the testes. Left untreated in either sex, the disease can cause sterility.
  • In women, the infection often moves into the reproductive organs such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, and may eventually result in pelvic inflammatory disease.


  • A clinician must perform a gonorrhea test. This involves taking a specimen from the genital area, a simple procedure. You may also ask if the test can be done through urinalysis.
  • Routine gonorrhea testing is recommended for individuals with the following characteristics:
    • Women who use birth control pills and not condoms
    • Having a new sex partner within two months
    • A history of more than one sex partner
    • A history of sexually transmitted

  • If the test is positive, you and your sexual partner should be treated with antibiotics. Avoid sex until the treatment is completed.


  • Because there are many new strains of gonorrhea bacteria that are penicillin-resistant, the disease is now generally treated with an injection of an antibiotic.
  • Since some gonorrhea bacteria may not be completely eliminated by typical treatment, follow-up checks should be made about a week after treatment has ended.
  • Treatment should include antibiotics that destroy chlamydia organisms as well, since that infection often coexists with gonorrhea.
  • As with any STI, sexual partners of a patient with gonorrhea should be notified of their risk, so that they may seek appropriate diagnosis and treatment.


  • If properly used, condoms provide good protection against gonorrhea. For more information on condoms, learn more on this page: Condoms.
  • Know your partner. If you are unsure of your partner’s contacts outside your relationship, insist that a condom is used during oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
  • If you and your partner have other sexual contacts, you should have regular examinations.

Adapted from: www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm

Sexual Health Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Contraception