What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea (pronounced: 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.

You should not have sex again until:

  • at least 7 days after you and your sexual partner(s) take the antibiotics
  • you and your sexual partner(s) do not have signs of gonorrhea

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 you decide to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.

If you are sexually active, get tested for STDs every year (or more often if recommended by their health care provider). This way, you can get treated right away if you get an STD.

Back to Articles


Related Articles

Talking to Your Partner About Condoms

Some people - even those who are having sex - are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. Here are some tips for talking about condoms with your partner.

Read More

Condoms

Condoms may be a good birth control option for couples who are responsible enough to use one each time and people who want protection against STDs.

Read More

STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)

You've probably heard lots of discouraging news about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. Find out how to protect yourself.

Read More

Talking to Your Partner About STDs

You know you should talk about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) before the action starts. But what if the thought of having "the talk" makes you nervous? These tips can help.

Read More

Gyn Checkups

Girls should get their first gynecological checkup between ages 13 and 15. Find out what happens during a yearly gyn visit -- and why most girls don't get internal exams.

Read More

About Birth Control

Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Read this article to get the basics on birth control.

Read More

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease, sometimes called PID, is an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, or ovaries. Learn how to protect yourself.

Read More

Telling Your Partner You Have an STD

People who have STDs might feel apprehensive about discussing their disease with a partner. Here are some tips on talking to a partner when you have an STD.

Read More

Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Early treatment can cure it and prevent long-term problems.

Read More

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.

Search our entire site.