STD - Gonorrhea  
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Definition
  • Seeking information about gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease.

General Information

  • Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrheae.
  • Other common names for gonorrhea are “GC”, the “clap”, or the “drip.”

Women

  • In women, gonorrhea most commonly causes an infection of the cervix or the urethra.
  • Symptoms for women can sometimes be mild and not very specific. Symptoms may include increased vaginal discharge, abnormal menstrual bleeding, painful sexual intercourse, or burning with urination.
  • Sometimes a woman can have no symptoms at all.
  • If not treated, gonorrhea can cause significant complications (e.g., pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy).

Men

  • In men, gonorrhea usually causes urethritis (infection of the tube inside the penis that carries urine out of the body).
  • Most men with gonorrhea will have symptoms. The most common symptoms are discharge from the penis (white or yellow) and burning with urination.
  • If not treated, gonorrhea can cause significant complications (e.g., epididymitis).

Women and Men

  • In both men and women, gonorrhea can sometimes cause an infection of the throat or of the rectum.
  • A person with gonorrhea is contagious until he or she has been treated with antibiotics.

Additional Resources

  1. American Social Health Association
  2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2002. MMWR. 2002; 51(RR-6):1-80.
  3. Public Health Agency of Canada

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You were forced to have sex (sexual assault or rape)
  • You are a female with any of the following:
    • Fever and burning (pain) with urination
    • Constant lower abdominal pain lasting more than 2 hours
    • Unable to urinate for more than 4 hours, and bladder feels very full
  • You are a male with any of the following:
    • Fever and burning (pain) with urination
    • Fever and testicle pain or swelling
    • Unable to urinate for more than 4 hours, and bladder feels very full
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • You are a female with any of the following:
    • Burning (pain) with urination
    • Unexplained lower abdominal pain
    • Abnormal color of vaginal discharge (i.e., yellow, green, gray)
    • Bad smelling vaginal discharge
    • Rectal discharge or unusual rectal pain or itching
  • You are a male with any of the following:
    • Burning (pain) with urination
    • Pus (white, yellow) or bloody discharge from end of penis
    • Testicle pain or swelling
    • Rectal discharge or unusual rectal pain or itching
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • You are worried you might have a sexually transmitted disease
  • You had sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal, or anal) with someone who was diagnosed with gonorrhea (Reason: you will need to be tested and treated)
Self Care at Home If
  • No symptoms and you don't think you need to be seen
  • Questions about Gonorrhea
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR GONORRHEA

  1. How is gonorrhea transmitted?
    • By intercourse (vaginal or anal), or oral sex.
  2. How long does it usually take for symptoms to appear once one is exposed?
    • The incubation period for gonorrhea is 2-7 days.
    • Sometimes people (especially women) can become infected and not show any symptoms.
  3. How can I get tested for gonorrhea?
    • Gonorrhea is diagnosed by taking swabs of the urethra, vagina, throat, or rectum.
  4. What is the treatment for gonorrhea?
    • Antibiotic therapy is needed. A person with gonorrhea is contagious until he or she has been treated.
    • Sexual partners should be evaluated and treated.
  5. STD National Hotline
    • The CDC National STD Hotline provides information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV/genital warts, herpes, and HIV/AIDS. Specialists can provide general information, referrals to local clinics, and written materials about STDs and disease prevention.
    • Toll-free number (English): (800) 227-8922
    • Toll-free number (Spanish): (800) 344-7432
    • Their website is at: http://www.ashastd.org
  6. Pregnancy test, when in doubt:
    • If there is any possibility of pregnancy, obtain and use a urine pregnancy test from the local drug store.
    • Follow the instructions included in the package.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pregnancy test is positive or if you have difficulties with the home pregnancy test
    • Discharge from penis or unusual vaginal discharge
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 4/17/2010

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions LLC; LMS, Inc.