Gonorrhea

General Info

If you think you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) or that you have been exposed to an STI, such as Gonorrhea, STOP having sex immediately until you are tested and/or treated by a medical provider.

For more information about Sexually Transmitted Infections, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

What is it?

  • Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • It is an infection caused by a bacterium ("germ") called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
  • It can grow in the reproductive tract (cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes) of women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men.
  • It can impact a women's ability to have children if not treated.
  • Gonorrhea can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus (rectum).

How do I get it?

How is Gonorrhea spread?
  • Gonorrhea is passed from an infected person to an unifected person during sex.
  • Sex is putting the penis into the vagina, rectum, or mouth; and/or putting the mouth on the penis, vagina, or rectum.
  • Ejaculation (cum) does not have to occur for Gonorrhea to be transmitted.
  • Gonorrhea can be spread from mother to baby during delivery.
  • Infection is more common in people who have multiple sexual partners.
  • People who had Gonorrhea and received antibiotic treatment can get infected again if they have sexual contact with a person infected with Gonorrhea.
If I have Gonorrhea and I'm pregnant, can I spread it to my baby?
  • Yes. Babies born to infected mothers can get the infection during delivery.
  • This can cause serious health problems for the baby.
  • Infants may develop fever and should be treated if diagnosed.
  • Treating Gonorrhea as soon as it is detected in pregnant women will make these health problems less likely.
  • See your healthcare provider about testing and treatment of Gonorrhea during pregnancy.

How common is it?

  • Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 800,000 persons in the U.S. get new Gonorrhea infections each year.
  • Only about half of these infections are reported to CDC.
  • In 2011, more than 300,000 cases of Gonorrhea were reported to CDC.
  • Any sexually active person can be infected with Gonorrhea.
  • In the U.S., the highest rates of infection are among sexually active teenagers, young adults, and African Americans.

What happens if I get it?

Untreated Gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems:

  • Women can develop a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID.
  • PID symptoms can be very severe and can include abdominal pain and fever.
  • PID can lead to internal abscesses (pus-filled pockets) that are hard to cure, and long-lasting pelvic pain.
  • Gonorrhea can make a woman unable to have children because of the damage it can cause to her reproductive tract.
  • It can also cause an ectopic ("tubal") pregnancy or a baby growing outside the uterus.
  • In men, Gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition in the tubes attached to the testicles.
  • If not treated, Gonorrhea can also spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life-threatening.
  • Untreated Gonorrhea can increase a person’s chances of acquiring or transmitting HIV—the virus that causes AIDS.

Signs and Symptoms

Most women and some men may not have any symptoms of an infection with Gonorrhea.

Women:
  • Symptoms may be mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection.
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods.
  • Women with Gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if sypmtoms are not present or mild.
Men:
  • Some men may have no symptoms, but most men have some symptoms.
  • Burning sensation when urinating.
  • White, yellow, or green discharge from the penis that appears 1-14 days after infection.
  • Painful or swollen testicles.
Men and Women:
  • Rectal infections in men and women may have discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements.
  • Not all rectal infections cause symptoms.
  • Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat, but usually cause no symptoms.
How can I tell if I have Gonorrhea?
  • Most women and some men may not have any symptoms.
  • Chances are you won't be able to tell if you have Gonorrhea unless you get tested.
  • That's why it's important to get your free IWTK test kit or have your healthcare provider do a test.

Diagnosis and Treatment

How is Gonorrhea diagnosed?
  • Several laboratory tests are available to diagnose Gonorrhea.
  • A healthcare provider can obtain a sample for testing from the parts of the body likely to be infected (cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat) and send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
  • Gonorrhea that is present in the cervix in women or urethra in men can also be diagnosed in a laboratory by testing a urine sample.
  • Vaginal samples can be used with newer molecular tests.
  • A quick laboratory test for Gonorrhea that can be done in some clinics or doctors' offices is a Gram stain, which lets the Gonorrhea bacteria be seen under a microscope. This test works better for men than for women.
How does IWTK diagnose Gonorrhea?
  • Women: you collect a vaginal and/or rectal swab in the comfort of your own home.
  • Men: you collect a penile (surface swabbing) and/or rectal swab in the comfort of your own home.
  • Men and women mail their self-collected swab(s) back to our laboratory, and we test them using a highly sensitive molecular test which gives the most accurate result possible.
Is Gonorrhea treatable?
  • YES! Gonorrhea is treatable.
  • Several prescription antibiotics (medicines) can successfully cure Gonorrhea in adolescents and adults.
  • Antibiotic-resistant strains occur in some areas of the world, including the U.S. It is important to take all of the medication as prescribed to cure Gonorrhea.
  • If your symptoms continue even after receiving treatment, you should return to a doctor to be tested again.

Prevention

Can Gonorrhea be prevented?

Yes.
Follow these guidelines:

  • Abstain from sexual intercourse; or use a latex condom properly, every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral), with every partner.
  • Limit your sexual partners. The more sex partners you have, the greater your risk of encountering someone who has this or other STIs.
  • If you are infected, your sexual partner(s) should be notified so they can be tested and treated. This will prevent you from getting reinfected.
  • All gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) should be tested each year for STIs.
  • Always see a healthcare provider if you have any signs and symptoms of an STI.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent Gonorrhea.
Once I have had Gonorrhea, am I immune?

No. You can get infected with Gonorrhea again.