- Caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrohoeae
- Also called "clap," "drip," or GC
- 15-24 year olds in the U.S. have the highest rates of gonorrhea, followed by 20-24 year olds
- At least 50% of women and 10% of men who are infected have no symptoms
- Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics
- Having gonorrhea can increase your chances of getting HIV
How do you get it?
You can get gonorrhea by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has gonorrhea. It is passed through contact with semen, vaginal fluids or discharge. Most people with gonorrhea do not know they have it, but they can still pass the disease. In women, gonorrhea infects the cervix and can be found in vaginal fluids. In men, gonorrhea infects the urethra (where urine and semen come out). Gonorrhea can also infect the rectum and throat. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can pass it to her newborn baby during childbirth.
Many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms. If symptoms develop, they may appear 2-5 days after infection. Symptoms may include a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis, vagina or anus. It may also hurt or burn to urinate. Women may also have pain in the abdomen, fever, unusually heavy periods or bleeding between periods, or pain during sex. Infections in the throat may cause mild soreness or redness, but these symptoms are rare.
If gonorrhea is not treated, it can spread in the reproductive organs. In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause scarring and inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries, a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain, and can increase the risk of a life threatening ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. In men, untreated gonorrhea can lead to a painful infection of the testicles known as epididymitis, which can cause sterility. In rare cases, gonorrhea can spread to the blood stream and cause a general infection with rash and joint pain. A baby born to a mother with gonorrhea may develop an eye infection which can cause blindness.
To get tested for gonorrhea, go to a doctor or health clinic. In women, the cervix is swabbed during a pelvic exam. For men, the inside of the urethra is swabbed. Newer gonorrhea tests, which require only a urine sample from the patient, are now available at many clinics.
Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with certain antibiotics (taken orally or by a shot). It takes one week for the medicine to completely cure gonorrhea. Make sure both you and your sex partner(s) are cured before having sex again. Because different antibiotics cure different diseases, see a doctor before taking any medications. You should not attempt to diagnose yourself or take any medicine that was not prescribed to you. Do not share medications.
Latex condoms provide excellent protection against gonorrhea. The female condom and polyurethane (plastic) condoms are equally effective. Pregnant women should seek prenatal care early, to prevent passing gonorrhea to the newborn.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.