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Diseases & Conditions

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, also called “clap” or “drip,” is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Gonorrhea is a serious infection that is caught by having sex with an infected person. Both men and women can get gonorrhea. The infection is easily spread and most often occurs in people who have many sex partners.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

In women

Most women do not have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they often include:

  • Unusual discharge (fluid) from the vagina (may be white or yellow)
  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Pain or burning when passing urine
  • Bleeding between periods
In men
  • White or yellow discharge from the penis
  • Pain or burning when passing urine (the burning sensation can be severe)

What causes gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection. A person can become infected when the bacteria enter any opening in the body, including the penis, anus, vagina, or mouth. The most common site of infection in women is the cervix, the opening from the vagina to the womb. In men, the infection most often starts in the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body.

How can I know if I have gonorrhea?

If you think you have gonorrhea, or any STI, contact your health care provider. He or she will examine you and perform tests, if necessary, to determine if you have an STI.

As part of the examination for gonorrhea, women are often given a pelvic exam. The doctor will take a sample of fluid from the cervix for testing; in men, the doctor will take a sample of fluid from the penis. You may also be given a throat or anal culture to see if the infection is in your throat or anus. You may need to wait for several days for your test results to come back from the lab.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia, another common STI, often occur together, so you may be tested and treated for both.

Can gonorrhea be cured?

Yes. Gonorrhea can be treated and cured.

How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics, a medication taken by mouth or as shots. Since you and your sex partner are both infected, both of you must be treated.

Continue to take your medication, even if the symptoms go away. Also, never take someone else's medication to treat your illness. By doing so, you may make the infection more difficult to treat.

You should also:

  • Tell anyone you have had sex with in the last three months that you are infected. This step is especially important because gonorrhea may have no symptoms. Women, especially, may not have symptoms and may not seek testing or treatment unless alerted by their sex partner.
  • Wait until you have taken all of your medicine before having sex again.
  • Always use condoms when having sex.
  • Get checked for HIV (AIDS) and other STIs (syphilis, herpes, chlamydia).

What can happen if gonorrhea is not treated?

In women

Gonorrhea can spread to other reproductive organs, including the uterus and Fallopian tubes, and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause infertility and tubal pregnancies (which can lead to death of the mother and the unborn child).

Gonorrhea can spread to other parts of the body and lead to other medical problems, including swollen and painful joints and damage to heart valves and the brain.

In men

Untreated gonorrhea can cause:

  • Scars in the urethra
  • Inflammation of the testicles
  • Sterility

Gonorrhea can spread to other parts of the body and lead to other medical problems, including swollen and painful joints and damage to heart valves and the brain.

Can I get gonorrhea more than once?

Yes.

How can I protect myself from gonorrhea?

  • Do not have sex with someone you know is infected.
  • Always use a condom during sex. Also use a spermicide containing nonoxynol-9.
  • Have sex with only one partner and get tested.

Where can I learn more?

CDC Hotline: 1.800.232.4636

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/26/2010...#4217

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