What to know about gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease, sometimes referred to as “the clap.” It affects hundreds of thousands of men and women annually in the United States.

Globally, there are an estimated 78 millionTrusted Source new cases of gonorrhea diagnosed each year. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 820,000Trusted Source new gonorrhea infections each year. However, not all cases are diagnosed and reported; only 333,004 cases of gonorrhea were reported in the U.S. in 2013.

Gonorrhea is easily treated but can cause serious and sometimes permanent complications. Pelvic inflammatory disease occurs in women when the gonorrhea infection affects their uterus or fallopian tubes. The most serious complication associated with pelvic inflammatory disease is infertility.

Complications in men with gonorrhea include epididymitis (an inflammation of the tube which carries sperm) and infertility.

Fast facts on gonorrhea

* Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
* Gonorrhea can be passed from mother to baby during delivery.
* Gonorrhea and chlamydia can be experienced simultaneously.
* If untreated, gonorrhea can increase a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV.


Symptoms may be absent despite an active gonorrheal infection. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 1-14 days following exposure to the infection.

Men and women experience slightly different symptoms; these can include:


* White, yellow, or green urethral discharge, resembling pus
* Inflammation or swelling of the foreskin
* Pain in the testicles or scrotum
* Painful or frequent urination
* Anal discharge, itching, pain, bleeding, or pain when passing stools
* Itching, difficulty swallowing, or swollen neck lymph nodes
* Eye pain, light sensitivity, or eye discharge resembling pus
* Red, swollen, warm, painful joints


* Painful sexual intercourse
* Fever
* Yellow or green vaginal discharge
* Vulvar swelling
* Bleeding in-between periods
* Heavier periods
* Bleeding after intercourse
* Vomiting and abdominal or pelvic pain
* Painful or frequent urination
* Sore throat, itching, difficulty swallowing, or swollen neck lymph nodes
* Eye pain, light sensitivity, and eye discharge resembling pus
* Red, swollen, warm, painful joints

Anal gonorrhea signs include:

* Itching, bleeding, or pain with passing bowel movements
* Anal discharge

An itching or burning sensation in the eyes may be a symptom of conjunctivitis. If infected semen or fluid comes into contact with the eyes, a person can develop conjunctivitis.


Upon displaying symptoms, a doctor may recommend a test for gonorrhea in addition to other diseases. Testing for gonorrhea can be completed by analyzing a urine sample or a swab of an affected area. Swab samples are commonly taken from the penis, cervix, urethra, anus, and throat.

Home kits for women are also available that include vaginal swabs. These kits are sent to a laboratory and results are reported directly to the patient.

If testing is positive for a gonorrhea infection, the individual and their partner will need to undergo treatment. This typically involves:

* Antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Sourcerecommend a single dose of 250 milligrams of intramuscular ceftriaxone and 1 gram of oral azithromycin. They urge people to take all the medication a doctor prescribes and not to share it with anyone else.
* Abstaining from sexual intercourse. Until treatment is complete, there is still a risk of complications and spread of infection.
* Repeat testing in some cases. It is not always necessary to be tested to make sure the treatment has worked. However, the CDC recommend retesting for some patients, and a doctor will decide if it is necessary. Retesting should be performed 7 days after treatment.

The CDC note that it is becoming harder to treat gonorrhea because of antiobiotic resistance. If symptoms do not improve after a few days, it is best to return to the doctor.

If a woman is pregnant and infected with gonorrhea, the infant will be given an eye ointmentTrusted Source to prevent gonorrhea transmission. However, antibiotics may be required if an eye infection develops.


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