Gonorrhea is a common STI caused by bacteria and known colloquially as “the clap.” The infection can occur on the genitals, rectum, and throat. Gonorrhea is treatable, but drug-resistant strains are increasing.


Gonorrhea often shows no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can vary.

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Itching or burning around the opening of the penis
  • Pain and swelling around the testicles
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Bleeding in between periods or more painful periods

Other symptoms can include:

  • Rectal itching and discharge
  • Pain in or discharge from the eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen, achy joints


Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. It is important to complete the full course of treatment and for your sexual partner(s) to get tested.

Gonorrhea is becoming increasingly resistant to medication and therefore harder to treat. If symptoms persist, return to your healthcare provider.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to:

  • Infertility
  • Increased susceptibility to HIV/AIDS
  • Complications with pregnancy
  • A spread of the infection to your joints or blood (rare)

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you experience any of the above symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider.

Gonorrhea may not cause any symptoms. If you are sexually active, testing for gonorrhea should be included in your regular screening for STIs.

Gonorrhea is diagnosed either with a urine test or by analyzing a sample from the infected area.

Causes & Prevention

Gonorrhea passes from person to person during vaginal, oral, and anal sex, or other forms of sexual contact. Penetration and/or ejaculation do not need to occur to spread the infection. It is also possible for a pregnant woman to transmit gonorrhea to her child during delivery.

As with all STIs, the only way to avoid all risk of infection if to abstain from sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) and intimate skin-to-skin contact.

If you are sexually active:

  • Use condoms and/or dental dams consistently every time you have sex (anal, oral, vaginal)
  • Communicate with your partner(s) about STIs, testing and using condoms and/or dental dams.
  • If using sex toys, follow the instructions on how to clean them properly after each use. If they have no batteries/electrical wires, wash with soap and water and allow to dry.
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