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What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. About 820,000 people get gonorrhea in the United States every year, but less than half of these infections are reported to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Young people are much more likely to get gonorrhea than older people.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Many people who have gonorrhea have no symptoms at all. However, common symptoms in males include a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis that usually appears 1-14 days after infection. Males with gonorrhea may get painful or swollen testicles. Females with gonorrhea may have vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or a change in periods.

Symptoms of rectal infection in both males and females may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat. However, infections in the rectum or throat may not have any symptoms.

What is the treatment for gonorrhea?

Most gonorrhea can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics (usually just a single pill). Some people may need to get a shot for a new kind of gonorrhea infection that isn't easily cured by antibiotics. Make sure that you take your pills when you instructed, and finish taking all the medication (even if your symptoms go away).

People diagnosed with gonorrhea often have chlamydia as well, so your healthcare provider might treat you for both at the same time.

What will happen if I have gonorrhea, but I don't get treated?

In men, gonorrhea can cause a painful condition called epididymitis in the tubes attached to the testicles. In rare cases, this may prevent a man from being able to father children.  If not treated, gonorrhea can also spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life-threatening. Females with gonorrhea that don’t get treated might develop pelvic inflammatory disease and may be unable to get pregnant as a result.

Untreated gonorrhea can also increase a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV—the virus that causes AIDS.

How can I get tested for gonorrhea?

Urine and swab tests are available to test for gonorrhea. You can visit the Druid or Eastern STD clinics for testing. You can also get a free STD testing kit mailed to your home at It is very important to test all sites (penis, anus, throat, vagina) where you may have been exposed.