Gonorrhea is a very common STD, especially among sexually active teens and young adults. The infection is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacteria that grows easily in the warm, moist environment of the reproductive tract. The bacteria can be found in the urethra in men; the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women; and sometimes in the mouth, throat, eyes or anus.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both men and women. In women, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs. PID can cause internal sores and scarring and may lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy.

In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, an often painful infection of the ducts of the testicles. If left untreated, epididymitis can scar the reproductive ducts and cause infertility.

In both men and women gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints, and infection with gonorrhea can make it easier for either sex to contract HIV/AIDS.


Gonorrhea is spread by contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus of an infected person. Infected men can transmit gonorrhea even if they do not ejaculate.


The best way to avoid transmission of gonorrhea is to abstain from sex or engage in sex only with a monogamous partner who has been tested for the infection. If this is not possible, using a latex condom can also help to prevent transmission.


The signs and symptoms of gonorrhea are variable from person to person; however some men have symptoms 2-5 days after infection, while others do not show infection after as long as 30 days. And some individuals show no symptoms at all. Symptoms for men include a burning sensation when urinating, a discharge from and penis and swollen testicles.

Women experience few symptoms of the STD, and if they do it is often mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. When symptoms are present they are typically as same as a man’s with burning during urination, vaginal discharge and increased bleeding between periods.


A doctor or nurse can diagnose gonorrhea by taking a sample from the affected area and performing a lab analysis. Some infections may be diagnosed with a urine sample.


Gonorrhea is a bacteria and can be treated with a course of antibiotics. People who have been treated for gonorrhea may be re-infected if their sexual partners do not also seek testing and treatment.

For More Information: 

The CDC STD fact sheets are a good source of current, accurate information about STDs, as well as the American Social Health Association.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for medical advice. If you have any symptoms that you suspect may indicate an STD or other infection, please consult a doctor or medical professional. A good resource for STD testing, treatment and family planning services is http://www.plannedparenthood.org.
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