Gonorrhea Test

Healthcare providers use gonorrhea tests to confirm or rule out this common sexually transmitted infection (STI). A gonorrhea test involves testing a fluid sample from the part of your body that might be infected. Common methods include urine (pee) and swab samples from your genitals, rectum or throat.


What is a gonorrhea test?

A gonorrhea test can tell you if you have gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). People with gonorrhea may not develop recognizable symptoms. Testing is an important way to screen for and diagnose the condition so you don’t spread it to your partners without knowing it.

Healthcare providers can cure gonorrhea with antibiotics. But without treatment, gonorrhea can cause serious health issues like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), testicular pain, infertility and blood infections. Taking a gonorrhea test is the only way to know if you have this bacterial infection.


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Who should take a gonorrhea test?

You should get tested if you think you might have gonorrhea or if you develop any of the following symptoms:

Routine gonorrhea screenings

Some people have a higher risk of getting gonorrhea. Ask a healthcare provider about regular screenings if you:

  • Are pregnant. (Pregnant people with gonorrhea can pass the infection to their baby during childbirth.)
  • Have a new sex partner.
  • Have multiple sex partners.
  • Have a sex partner who recently received treatment for an STI.
  • Have HIV.

Test Details

How do you test for gonorrhea?

Healthcare providers test your body fluids for the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. If they detect this bacterium, it means you have gonorrhea. Providers use one of two methods to gather your sample:

  1. Urine (pee) test. This involves collecting pee in a specimen container.
  2. Swab test. A provider uses a cotton bud to swab the part of your body that might have the infection. They might take a sample from your vagina, cervix, urethra, rectum or throat.

Once they collect your sample, your provider will send it to a lab for testing. The most common gonorrhea testing method is a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). NAAT detects the genetic material of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. You can get results from a urine or a swab sample.

NAAT is the best test to detect the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium because it doesn’t grow well in culture. Rarely, your provider might order a bacteria culture test, particularly if they suspect you have an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea.

Preparing for a gonorrhea test

Your provider can tell you whether you need to prepare for your gonorrhea test. They may ask you to:

  • Share information about what parts of your body are involved when you have sex. This can help your provider decide where to take the sample from.
  • Stop taking any current antibiotics. Some antibiotics can interfere with your test results.
  • Avoid peeing two hours before your appointment. If you’re taking a urine test, you’ll need a “first-catch” urine sample. This means you want to collect the sample as soon as you start peeing. Peeing an hour or two before your test might make your sample too weak for testing.
  • Avoid douche and vaginal creams for a full 24 hours before testing. Using these products can contaminate your sample and skew your test results.

What to expect during a gonorrhea test

If you need to provide a urine sample, your provider will give you a specimen cup to pee in. If your provider needs a swab sample, they’ll use a cotton bud or special brush to collect fluid and cells from the part of your body that might have the infection. Your provider may also give you instructions on how to collect the sample yourself. Collecting the sample only takes a few minutes.


Results and Follow-Up

When should I know the results of my gonorrhea test?

In most cases, it takes one to three days to get your test results. The exact length of time it takes depends on how the lab tests your sample.

What do the results mean?

Your gonorrhea test results will either be negative (not detected) or positive (detected):

  • A negative (not detected) result means your sample didn’t contain the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. But this doesn’t totally rule out gonorrhea. After initial exposure, it can take several weeks to test positive for gonorrhea. It’s possible that you took your gonorrhea test too soon after exposure.
  • A positive (detected) result means you have gonorrhea. If you test positive, you’ll need to start antibiotic treatment right away and inform your sex partners so they can get treatment, too.

If I test positive, what are the next steps?

If you test positive for gonorrhea:

  • Take a deep breath. Testing positive for gonorrhea can bring up a lot of tough emotions. But it’s important to remind yourself it’s curable with prompt treatment.
  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Start your antibiotics right away. Be sure to finish the entire course unless your provider tells you otherwise.
  • Tell your sexual partners. Your partners might have a gonorrhea infection and not realize it. It’s important to let them know you tested positive so they can get tested and get the treatment they need.

Additional Common Questions

Can a blood test detect gonorrhea?

Healthcare providers can diagnose several STIs with blood tests, including syphilis, herpes and HIV. Currently, there’s no blood test that can detect gonorrhea. You’ll need to provide a urine or swab sample for a proper diagnosis.


How long does it take to test positive for gonorrhea?

After exposure, it can take up to two full weeks for a gonorrhea infection to show up on a test. If you think you might have gonorrhea, ask your healthcare provider when you should test.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Gonorrhea is a highly contagious STI that doesn’t always cause symptoms. Taking a gonorrhea test is the only way to know for sure if you have an infection. Having gonorrhea — or any STI — isn’t a reason to feel embarrassed. Your sexual health is just as important as your physical, mental and emotional health. Your healthcare provider is here to help. If you think you could have gonorrhea, talk to your provider about testing right away.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/24/2023.

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