Share this page

Health Library

Definition

Gonorrhea is type of sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Treatment includes antibiotics, partner notification, and lifestyle changes.

Causes

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted from an infected partner during sex. This can happen during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Risk Factors

Gonorrhea is most common among sexually young adults. Other factors that increase your chances of getting gonorrhea include:

  • Being sexually active
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Having sex without a condom
  • History of STDs
Symptoms

Most people who have gonorrhea do not have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may appear 1-14 days of exposure. In some cases, symptoms do not occur for up to a month.

Symptoms in men may include:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Itching sensation in urethra

Symptoms in women may include:

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

Symptoms in men and women with rectal infections may include:

  • Anal itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Painful bowel movements

Gonorrhea can also cause serious health complications.

Complications in men include:

  • Epididymitis —A painful swelling and inflammation of the testicles, which may lead to infertility.
  • Urethritis —The inside of the urethra may become inflamed, which causes burning when passing urine. If scarring occurs, it may cause difficulty with passing urine, or block urine flow completely.
  • Prostatitis —An inflammation of the prostate gland. Symptoms include pain in and around the groin and pelvis, or discomfort when urinating. It may also create flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches, or fatigue.

Complications in women include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)—A serious infection that can lead to infertility , even in women who never have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include pelvic pain and pain with intercourse. PID causes scar tissue, or may cause an abscess to form, in the fallopian tubes.
  • Infection in a newborn infant if you are infected during pregnancy.

Female Reproductive System Organs

Female Reproductive Organs

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:

  • Joints
  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart
Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on tests.

Tests may include:

  • Nucleic acid test—Discharge or urine is tested for genetic material found in gonorrhea.
  • Laboratory culture—A smear of the discharge is taken and sent to a lab. After two days, the culture is checked for growth of the bacteria.
  • Other STD tests, such as chlamydia , syphilis, or HIV .
Treatment

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Some strains of gonorrhea have developed resistance to certain antibiotics. You and your doctor will work together to find an antibiotic that is effective.

It is important to take all medication as prescribed. Also, all of your sexual partners should be tested and treated. Do not have sex again until you and your partners have completed treatment and no one has symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .

Prevention

To reduce your chances of getting gonorrhea, take these steps:

  • Always use a latex condom during sexual activity.
  • Have routine check-ups for STDs if you are under the age of 25.
  • Have check-ups often if you have other risk factors for getting STDs.
  • Have a monogamous relationship. Monogamous means only one sexual partner.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
http://www.sieccan.org

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/arg/default.htm. Updated May 8, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/. Updated May 8, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.

Gonococcal cervicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 20, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.

Gonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated April 16, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Gonorrhea. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/gonorrhea/pages/default.aspx. Updated December 13, 2012. Accessed May 16, 2013.

Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR . 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.



Last reviewed May 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Baptist Flame

Baptist Nutrition and Bariatric Center

Find A Doctor

Services

Locations

Baptist Medical Clinic

Patients & Visitors

Learn

Contact Us

Physician Tools

Careers at Baptist

Employee Links

Online Services

At Baptist Health Systems

At Baptist Medical Center

close ×