What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea (gah-nuh-REE-uh) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

What Are STDs?

STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). Some STDs can spread through close contact with the genitals or body fluids.

How Do People Get Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea spreads through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) with someone who has the infection.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Someone with gonorrhea may have:

  • discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • in men, pain in testicles
  • in women, vaginal bleeding between periods
  • pain in the lower belly
  • pain when peeing
  • rectal pain, especially when having a bowel movement (pooping)

Many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms. They can spread the infection to others without knowing it.

What Causes Gonorrhea?

A type of bacteria , Neisseria gonorrhoeae, causes gonorrhea.

How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?

To find out if someone has gonorrhea, health care providers do tests on:

  • urine (pee)
  • fluid or discharge from the vagina, cervix (opening to the womb), urethra (where pee comes out), throat, or anus

How Is Gonorrhea Treated?

Health care providers treat gonorrhea with antibiotics . Two antibiotics are needed because the gonorrhea germs may not be killed with only one antibiotic. The first antibiotic is given as a shot in the doctor's office. The second antibiotic is taken by mouth.

All sexual partners from the past 2 months need treatment too, even if they don't have signs of gonorrhea.

If someone still has symptoms after treatment, they may need treatment with different antibiotics. Or they may have been infected with gonorrhea again.

People can get gonorrhea again if:

  • their partners aren't treated with antibiotics
  • they get treated but then have sex with someone else who has gonorrhea

What Problems Can Happen?

If it's not treated, gonorrhea can lead to:

  • in girls: pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can damage the reproductive system, making it hard or impossible for a woman to get pregnant later on
  • in guys: swelling in the testicles and tubes at the back of the testicles, possibly preventing a man from fathering kids later on
  • problems peeing due to scars in the urethra
  • infection of the blood that can lead to joint problems and other problems

Can Gonorrhea Be Prevented?

The only way to prevent gonorrhea and other STDs is to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.

Anyone who is sexually active should get tested for STDs every year, or more often if recommended by their health care provider.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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