Gonorrhea is a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).


The infection is caused by a bacteria. It spreads during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner. It can also spread from a mother to her baby during birth.

Risk Factors

Gonorrhea is most common among sexually active young adults.

Other things that raise your chances of getting it are having:

  • An STI or had one in the past
  • A new sex partner
  • More than one sex partner
  • A sex partner with an STI
  • Not using a condom or not using it properly if you or partner are having sex with more than 1 person



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

Men may have:

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

Women may have:

  • Burning while urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Belly pain
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

Rectal symptoms in both men and women are:

  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Painful stools

Gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in both men and women. You will need to seek care.

Female Reproductive System Organs
Female Reproductive Organs
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:

  • Joints
  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on:

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Urine tests
  • Tests of genital fluid
  • Throat culture
  • Test of fluid in joint, blood or fluid around the spine but this is less common



Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Some strains have resisted this them. You and your doctor will work together to find one that works for you.

All of your sex partners should be tested and treated. Do not have sex until you and your partners are done with treatment and symptoms are gone.


To lower your chances of getting gonorrhea:

  • Abstain from sex.
  • Have sex with only one partner.
  • Use a latex condom during sexual activity if you or partner are having sex with more than 1 person.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.


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

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


Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

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


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