What is gonorrhea infection?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacteria spread during unprotected sex with an infected partner. 

Anyone can become infected, but your risk is increased if you have multiple sex partners or forget to use condoms regularly. Gonorrhea infection rates are higher in adolescents than in any other age group.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of gonorrhea vary from person to person and from males to females. Some people do not develop any symptoms, but are still infected with gonorrhea and can still spread the infection.

Symptoms may include:

  • Burning with urination (males and females)
  • Vaginal discharge (females only)
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding (females only)
  • Lower belly pain (females only)
  • Pain with sex (females only)
  • Painful infection of the glands in the skin surrounding the vagina (females only)
  • Discharge from the penis (males only).


Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria spread during unprotected sex with an infected partner.

Testing and diagnosis

If you suspect you have gonorrhea, you should contact your healthcare professional to be tested for the sexually-transmitted disease.

A common test for gonorrhea can be done with a sample of your urine. The test looks for DNA from the bacteria. For females, this test does not involve a pelvic exam. For males, this test does not require using a swab in your penis.

Another test for gonorrhea involves placing a cotton swab inside your cervix (females) or penis (males) for a few seconds and then sending it to a lab to look for evidence of the gonorrhea bacteria.


Treatment for gonorrhea includes antibiotics that will kill the bacteria and rid your body of the gonorrhea infection.

If you are treated, you should make sure your partner gets treated too. Even if he or she is not the one who gave the infection to you, you may have passed it along to him or her without knowing it.

Using condoms or other barrier contraceptives can help prevent the spread of gonorrhea.


Individuals treated for gonorrhea, generally have a full recovery. If you choose not to be treated for your infection, you may continue to have symptoms such as irregular bleeding and vaginal discharge.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can spread into the rest of your reproductive organs.

  • For females, this includes your uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease (or PID), and can be very painful, dangerous to your reproductive organs, and affect your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
  • For males, this includes the epidydimis (the tubes next to the testicle — it's where your sperm is stored) and the urethra (the tube that carries your urine).

It is important to note that gonorrhea can also infect your throat (from oral sex) and your rectum (from anal sex). Having a gonorrhea infection increases your chances of getting other STDs, including HIV infection. Women can spread gonorrhea to their newborn babies, causing serious infections in the baby. 

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