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.
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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You should get tested if you think you might have gonorrhea or if you develop any of the following symptoms:
Some people have a higher risk of getting gonorrhea. Ask a healthcare provider about regular screenings if you:
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:
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.
Your provider can tell you whether you need to prepare for your gonorrhea test. They may ask you to:
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.
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.
Your gonorrhea test results will either be negative (not detected) or positive (detected):
If you test positive for 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.
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/24/2023.
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