Fast facts

  • Gonorrhea is a common sexually-transmitted infection.
  • Gonorrhea often does not cause any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include pain, itching, swelling, spotting or bleeding from the infected areas - usually the genitals.
  • It is important to tell your sexual partner(s) if you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, to prevent spreading the infection.
  • Gonorrhea is treated with a course of antibiotic medication.
  • You can lower the risk of getting gonorrhea by practicing safe sex and having regular sexual health checks.  

Sexually-transmitted infection

A viral or bacterial infection contracted through sexual intercourse or genital contact. Such an infection can lead to development of diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and AIDS.

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea, also known as 'The Clap', is a common bacterial, sexually-transmitted infection. It can affect anyone who is sexually active. Gonorrhea can infect the genital tract, throat, and rectum, depending on sexual practices, such as oral or anal sex.

Sexually-transmitted infection

A viral or bacterial infection contracted through sexual intercourse or genital contact. Such an infection can lead to development of diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and AIDS.

Causes

Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. It is transmitted during unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex. You cannot catch gonorrhea from objects, such as a toilet seat.

Gonorrhea is a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection. 

Risk factors

Risk factors for gonorrhea include:

  • Being sexually active;
  • Having new or multiple sexual partners;
  • Previous sexually-transmitted infections;
  • Having a sexual partner who recently had a sexually-transmitted infection, and;
  • Not practicing safe sex, including during oral sex.

Sexually-transmitted infection

A viral or bacterial infection contracted through sexual intercourse or genital contact. Such an infection can lead to development of diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and AIDS.

Signs and symptoms

Gonorrhea often does not cause any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Penile or vaginal discharge;
  • Pain during urination;
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding;
  • Sore throat, if there is a throat infection from oral sex;
  • Anal itching or discharge, and;
  • Pain and swelling in the testicles.

Methods for diagnosis

Gonorrhea is diagnosed by tests on a urine sample, or a swab sample from the cervix in women or the urethra in men. Your doctor will usually also test for other sexually-transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and syphilis, because it is common for them to occur together with gonorrhea. 

Cervix

The lower part of the uterus, leading out into the vagina.

Urethra

The duct through which urine flows from the bladder to outside the body.

Types of treatment

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. It is important that you finish the entire course of antibiotics, even after your symptoms disappear, otherwise the infection may return.

If you have gonorrhea, or any other sexually-transmitted infection, it is important to tell your sexual partner(s), so they can also be diagnosed. Abstaining from sex until after completing treatment can help to prevent the spread of infection to new sexual partners. 

Sexually-transmitted infection

A viral or bacterial infection contracted through sexual intercourse or genital contact. Such an infection can lead to development of diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and AIDS.

Potential complications

When gonorrhea is left untreated, complications can include:

  • Infection of the joints, such as arthritis;
  • In women, if gonorrhea spreads to the uterus and fallopian tubes, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can result in infertility, or increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy;
  • In men, inflammation of the epididymis can cause infertility, and;
  • Increased risk of HIV infection - inflammation of the genital tract can more easily allow infection, if your sexual partner(s) have HIV/AIDS.

Pregnant women with gonorrhea can also pass the infection to their baby during childbirth. This can cause an eye infection which, if left untreated, can sometimes lead to blindness. In addition, if left untreated, the baby may develop joint infection, or other serious complications.

Fallopian tubes

The tube-like structures connecting a woman's uterus to her ovaries. Eggs released by the ovaries travel to the uterus via the fallopian tubes.

HIV

A virus transmitted mainly by sexual or blood-to-blood contact, that infects cells of the immune system. It is the causative agent of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Joints

A connecting surface or tissue between two bones.

Uterus

The hollow organ of the female reproductive system that is responsible for the development of the embryo and fetus during pregnancy. Also known as the womb.

Prevention

You can lower the risk of getting gonorrhea by practicing safe sex (using condoms) and having regular sexual health checks.  

 

Condoms help prevent sexually-transmitted infections.