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Gonorrhea: Facts and Details

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

How common is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STI in the United States after chlamydia. In 2016, there were approximately 470,000 cases reported, an 18.5% increase from 2015.

How do people become infected?

Gonorrhea is spread from person to person during vaginal, anal, or oral sex or from exposure to infectious body fluids. Infected pregnant women can spread gonorrhea to their unborn babies.

What are the signs and symptoms of gonorrhea?

Most people do not show gonorrhea symptoms. Men may experience yellow or greenish discharge from the penis; burning or pain when urinating; having to go to the bathroom more often; or swollen or tender testicles.

Women may experience yellow or gray discharge from the vagina; burning or pain when urinating; having to go to the bath-room more often; bleeding between periods or after sex; heavier and more painful periods; cramping or pain in lower abdominal area; fever; or nausea.

Both men and women may experience rectal pain and blood or pus in feces (poop) if infected from anal sex; sore or red throat if infected from oral sex; or yellow or greenish eye discharge if infected fluid is transferred to the eyes.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can damage the reproductive organs in women and men and cause infertility. Rarely, gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints and be life-threatening.

How long can you spread gonorrhea?

After exposure, symptoms appear between two and 21 days. Gonorrhea can be spread until seven days after completing antibiotic treatment. Most people do not clear gonorrhea without treatment.

Who is at risk for gonorrhea?

Anyone who is sexually active can be infected with gonorrhea, but men who have sex with men, people with multiple partners, or those who have unprotected sex have a higher risk for infection.

How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria, so it can be treated with antibiotics. Due to increasing antibiotic resistance, gonorrhea is currently being treated with doxycycline and ceftriaxone, but sometimes with azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Gonorrhea can only be diagnosed using a laboratory test, which can be done using a sample from the infected site (cervix, penis, throat, eyes, anus) or using a urine test.

How can you prevent gonorrhea?

There is no vaccine to prevent gonorrhea. Some ways to prevent infection include:

Gonorrhea testing and treatment can be done at the Sedgwick County Division of Health, 2716 West Central Avenue, Wichita, Kansas.