Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium called Neisseria. It can cause serious health problems and infertility, but it can be cured with antibiotics, reducing the risk of complications.

This STI often affects warm and moist body parts, such as:

  1. Urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder)
  2. Eyes
  3. Throat
  4. Vagina
  5. Anus
  6. Female reproductive organs (like fallopian tubes, cervix, and uterus)

How Gonorrhea Spreads can be transmitted through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Using condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activity can reduce the risk, but they aren’t foolproof. There’s also some evidence that French kissing might transmit oral gonorrhea, but more research is needed to confirm this.

If you’ve had gonorrhea before, you’re more likely to get it again. Untreated can also increase your risk of getting other STIs. Additionally, it can be passed from an infected birthing parent to their baby during delivery.

Symptoms of Gonorrheas You might not always notice symptoms if you have, even if you’re carrying the infection and can still transmit it. However, symptoms can appear in the morning.

Symptoms in people with a penis may include:

  1. Pain or burning during urination
  2. Discharge from the penis (yellow, white, beige, or greenish)
  3. Swelling or discoloration at the penis opening
  4. Testicular swelling or pain
  5. Itching or soreness in the anus
  6. Rectal bleeding or discharge
  7. Pain during bowel movements

People with a vagina may experience:

  1. Vaginal discharge (watery, creamy, or greenish)
  2. Pain or burning during urination
  3. Frequent urge to urinate
  4. Heavier periods or spotting between periods
  5. Pain during vaginal sex
  6. Lower abdominal pain
  7. Itching or soreness in the anus
  8. Rectal bleeding or discharge
  9. Painful bowel movements

Oral gonorrhea usually doesn’t show symptoms but can sometimes cause a sore throat, throat inflammation, neck lymph node swelling, or fever. In rare cases, it may spread to the eyes.

Getting Tested for Gonorrhea

Healthcare professionals can diagnose gonorrhea through various methods, including urine tests, fluid samples from swabs of the genitals or throat, or blood tests. Test results usually come within a few days, depending on the clinic. It’s crucial to avoid sexual activity until you receive a negative test result. Home tests are also available.

Complications of Gonorrhea

If left untreated, gonorrhea can move to the reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can lead to severe chronic pain and reproductive organ damage. Scarring of the fallopian tubes can make it harder to get pregnant or lead to ectopic pregnancies (where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus).

In people with a penis, untreated can cause urethral scarring, painful abscesses, and inflammation of the tubes near the testicles. The infection can also spread to the bloodstream, leading to rare but serious complications like arthritis and heart valve damage.

Treating Gonorrhea

Antibiotics can cure gonorrhea, but over-the-counter remedies won’t work. If you suspect you have or your sexual partner tests positive, seek diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare professional.

The recommended treatment involves an injection of ceftriaxone and, in some cases, oral doxycycline. Finish your medications even if symptoms go away before the prescription is complete. Follow-up appointments may be needed for oral gonorrhea.

Preventing Gonorrhea

While there’s no vaccine for gonorrhea, you can reduce the risk by practicing safe sex, using condoms or barriers consistently, and having open discussions about sexual health with your partners. Regular testing is also essential.

If You Contract Gonorrhea

If you suspect you have gonorrhea, refrain from sexual activity and get tested at a healthcare facility. Don’t be embarrassed; this infection is common. Notify your current sexual partner(s) to get tested and, if diagnosed, provide the names of previous partners to the healthcare professional for anonymous contact tracing.


What’s the first sign of gonorrhea?

Burning or pain during urination is often the first symptom.

What are the main symptoms of gonorrhea?

Many people have no symptoms, but common ones include changes in discharge or odor, painful urination or bowel movements, and itching.

How long does gonorrhea last?

Typically, it resolves within a week of treatment.