1 What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a disease that is sexually transmitted and is caused by a bacterium that is sexually transmitted and can infect both men and females.

It mainly targets the urethra, rectum or throat. In females, it infects the cervix. The main form of spread of the disease is through sexual intercourse.


During child birth, the children can also be infected with the bacteria if the mother is infected. In babies, gonorrhea affects the eyes. This is a common infection that comes with no symptoms.

Often, people do not know that they are infected. The only preventive measures is abstaining from sex, using condom when having sex and being mutually monogamous is the best ways of avoiding the infection.

2 Brief facts about gonorrhea

  • Gonorrhea is a common infection among sexually active people aged 15-54
  • It can be spread through unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Any sexually active individual can contract it
  • Pregnant women with gonorrhea can pass it to their unborn baby during delivery
  • With the right treatment, gonorrhea is curable
  • Failure to get treatment can lead to severe health problems, and even death

3 Why is gonorrhea called "the clap"?

There are several theories that try to explain why gonorrhea is called the clap.

It has been a belief that the word comes from the French term “clapier,” to mean a brothel. In the earlier years, gonorrhea infections were mostly obtained from unregulated brothels.

Another theory connects “the clap” to how gonorrhea was previously treated. During gonorrhea treatment, a thick book was slammed on the penis, as to force the discharge out.

Another possible theory behind the clap dates back to the first world war. The word “clap” was a form of the word “collapse”.

4 Gonorrhea and chlamydia: What's the difference?

Gonorrhea may affect the rectum, throat, urethra, or the cervix. Its transmission typically involves unprotected sexual contact, or sometimes passing during pregnancy from a mother to child. Gonorrhea can be treated using antibiotics and is preventable if you use protection during sexual intercourse. Previously, gonorrhea was simply referred to as “the clap”.

On the other hand, chlamydia is a type of sexually transmitted infection that is more common. This infection is caused by bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. The bacteria are spread to others mostly through sexual intercourse. Individuals with chlamydia usually don’t show any symptoms. However, the progressive results of the infection can be very severe, especially for women. Chlamydia can be diagnosed by testing a swab of the penis or vagina or using a urine sample.

Antibiotics are mostly used to treat this infection. Early diagnosis and treatment are therefore recommended to prevent any complication and also to avoid the spread of the infection.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are similar in that they are preventable and treatable.

Do gonorrhea and chlamydia have the same symptoms?

Symptoms in men and women will mostly depend on the type of infection. It also varies among men and women depending on the body part that is affected.

Chlamydia symptoms in women include; abdominal pain, bleeding after sexual intercourse, burning sensation when urinating, bleeding between periods, and having noticeably abnormal vaginal discharge.

Chlamydia symptoms in men include; swelling of the testicles, burning sensation during urination, and discharge from the penis.

With regards to both women and men, symptoms associated with anal chlamydia infection include; bleeding, discharge of fluids from the rectum, and rectum pain.

Symptoms associated with chlamydia infection of the eye include; irritation of the eye, swelling of the eye, and discharge of fluids from the eye.

Contact your doctor as soon as you experience any of the above symptoms, as the infection will still be spread even if symptoms go away.

Symptoms of gonorrhea vary depending on the person.

When it comes to gonorrhea symptoms in men, about 10% will not show any symptoms.

When it comes to gonorrhea symptoms in women, about 50% will not experience any symptoms.

In both men and women, symptoms typically appear within two weeks of being infected.

Symptoms of gonorrhea in women include; frequently urinating, experiencing pain during urination, yellow or green vaginal discharge, abdominal pains, pain during sexual intercourse, fever, and bleeding in between periods.

Common symptoms experienced in men include; frequent and painful urination, white or green discharge from the penis, swelling around the opening at the tip of the penis (urethra), and swollen testicles.

Is the diagnosis of chlamydia and gonorrhea the same?

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are diagnosed by observing a sample of genital discharge or urine under a microscope. A discharge sample may be obtained from a penis swab or vaginal discharge. Being bacterial in nature, chlamydia and gonorrhea can be tested by growing a cell culture. While being tested, it is usually recommended to test for other related sexual transmitted diseases as well.

Another form of diagnosis is where the patient’s urine sample is put through a polymerase chain reaction. The bacterial DNA in the urine sample is duplicated from the chain reaction, providing enough resource for a diagnostic assay. To establish whether an infection is present, the DNA from the sample is compared to that of known laboratory standard. If they match, then there is an infection.

If diagnosed early, chlamydia can be effectively treated. Antibiotics are used to deal with the infection and usually disappear after a few weeks. Partners should always ensure that they get checked for chlamydia, even if they show no symptoms.

Similarly, gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. When you complete the antibiotics, always go for a follow-up to ensure the infection has disappeared completely.

Are complications associated with gonorrhea the same as the ones for chlamydia?

If left untreated, severe complications may be experienced.

Complications related to chlamydia in women include; infertility problems and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

In men, complications include; arthritis, and eye and testicle infections. Eye infections may cause blindness if not treated early.

A pregnant woman will have a high risk of miscarriage if she has chlamydia, or the baby may be born premature.

Gonorrhea could also cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, narrowing of the urethra, blood infections, infection of the joints, brain infections, heart infections, and ectopic pregnancy if left untreated.

5 Symptoms

Often, gonorrhea does not come with observable symptoms. However, when they appear, they present at multiple sites in the body.

However, often, they occur in the genital tracts. In men, the signs may include:

  • Painful urination
  • Pus-like discharge from the tips of the penis
  • It also causes swelling in one of the testicles

In women, it causes:

  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods and after vaginal intercourse
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain

Gonorrhea can also affect other pars of the body such as the rectum. The symptoms may include anal itching, pus like discharge from the rectum, spots of bright red blood on the toilet tissues and straining during bowel movements.

In the eyes, it may lead to eye pain, sensitivity to light, and pus like discharge from one or both eyes.

In the throat, it leads to a sore throat and swellings in the lymph nodes around the neck region.

In the joints, they become infected with bacteria leading to condition referred to as septic arthritis. The affect joints become warm, red, swollen and painful when moved.

It is recommended that one needs to see a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms above are presented.

Any slight feeling of a burning sensation when passing urine or a pus like discharge from the penis or vagina or rectum is enough to raise alarm. Even when your partner becomes diagnosed with gonorrhea, one needs to see a doctor immediately even in the absence of the symptoms of the disease.

It is possible to infect your partner even after you have been treated for gonorrhea.

6 Symptoms of gonorrhea in the throat

Gonorrhea in the throat is usually contracted and spread through unprotected oral sex.

Men and women experience similar symptoms from the infection. They include:

  • Sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Discharge of fluids
  • The back of the throat develops white spots
  • Fever 
  • Swollen neck glands

These symptoms normally disappear after exposure to the infection. This period is 2-10 days.

Contact your doctor if you experience any combination of the above symptoms.

7 How long do gonorrhea symptoms last? Is gonorrhea curable?

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics will work to kill the bacteria, and also to ease the pain and irritation. Antibiotic treatment, when used correctly, is 95% effective. A single dose of treatment is usually administered to the patient.

Depending on severity, the patient may receive an injection together with a tablet while at the hospital. This is because there are no over the counter drugs for the infection.

The prescribed antibiotics should be taken to completion. Do not avoid the full course of medication even if symptoms go away. This is because the infection might return, and even become resistant to the drugs. You will also be required to avoid sexual intercourse with your partner until the doctor establishes that the gonorrhea infection is completely gone.

After completing the antibiotics course, you will notice the disappearance of symptoms after some few days. However, it will depend on the length of time you had the disease before it was diagnosed and treated.

For instance, if gonorrhea is diagnosed and treated in its early phase, the symptoms may begin to disappear after as little as two days. It has also been noted that certain bacteria that transmits the disease have become resistant to certain antibiotics. Your doctor will therefore have to give you alternative antibiotics if that situation arises.

By taking the prescribed medications as instructed, the following changes will begin to occur:

  • Urination pain will disappear after 2-3 days
  • Discharge from urination will improve after 2-3 days
  • After 2-3 days, rectum discomfort will begin to fade
  • Bleeding in between periods will have improved in the next menstrual cycle

There will be a gradual decrease of pain in the pelvis and testicles, but it may last for up to two weeks before it completely goes away.

If pain resulting from sexual intercourse persists or returns after gonorrhea treatment, contact your doctor immediately.

Sex should also be avoided for at least one week after taking the antibiotics, or as recommended by your healthcare specialist. Failure to observe this might cause the spread of the infection to your partner(s).

8 Causes

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhea.

They are often passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse through the oral, anal and even vaginal route.

9 What are the chances of contracting gonorrhea?

This depends on a number of factors. One partner must have the infection in order to spread it.

Gonorrhea will spread through unprotected sexual intercourse, or the failure of a barrier method.

Contracting gonorrhea also depends on the method of sex, whether it is vaginal, anal, or oral.

10 Making a diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of gonorrhea is done by performing several tests.

When you suspect that you have a sexually transmitted disease especially some days after sex, you need to consider seeing a doctor immediately. If it is gonorrhea, the complication may need to be managed by a specialist.

Before going for the appointment, ensure to use some time to plan for the meeting and making preparations on the type of questions to ask and try to develop some questions you are likely to expect from doctor.

You may need to be aware of the pre appointment restrictions if any. You also need to ask the possible questions in advance before the interview or meeting.

Jot down any symptoms one is feeling even those that are unrelated to the condition one is experiencing. Make a list of the current and previous medications used including the vitamins or supplements.

Make the questions that you feel the doctor may need to address. This will help you manage the time since the appointments are always limited in time.

Arrange the questions from the most important to the least important questions. Some of the questions to ask the doctor may include:

  • Is gonorrhea responsible for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do need to do?
  • Do I need to test for other Sexually transmitted diseases?
  • Is my partner also supposed to be tested?
  • How long do I need to wait before I resume my sexual activity?
  • What do I need to do to prevent gonorrhea?
  • What is the complication that comes with gonorrhea?
  • Are there generics or alternative treatment for gonorrhea?
  • Are there any information booklets or reading material for gonorrhea that can teach more on this infection?

Always ask any question that does not seem very clear to you during the interview.

You doctor may also have a few questions. They may include:

  • When did you first feel the first symptoms?
  • Are your symptoms continuous or occasional?
  • How severe is the pain when urinating?
  • When did you last have sex before you started feeling the symptoms?
  • Was it with the same sexual partner or different?
  • Have you been exposed any sexually transmitted diseases before?

What you need to do in the meantime about this condition is that one should alert your partner/s that you are feeling the symptoms. This will enable them see a doctor.

The doctor will need to determine if the gonorrhea may be present in the body. They will analyze a sample of the cells collected from either urine or blood tests.

Urine test will identify the type of bacteria in the urethra. Swabs of the affected regions such as the throat, urethra, vagina or rectum may also collect bacteria which can be cultured and identified in the laboratory.

Women may use the home testing kits available for gonorrhea which come with vaginal swabs which can be sent to specific labs for testing. One may also choose the method you will prefer for the results to be communicated to you once they are ready.

It is recommended that other sexually transmitted infections need to be tested. Gonorrhea increases your risk of other infections such as chlamydia. HIV may also be tested since it is recommended for anyone with HIV. Other tests may be done depending with your risk factors and predisposition.

11 Treatment

The main treatment option for gonorrhea is the use of antibiotics.

However, as a result of the emergence of the drug resistant Neisseria gonorheae, it is recommended by CDC that uncomplicated gonorrhea be treated with antibiotic Ceftriaxone (Rosephin) which is administered as an injection and when combined with arithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) or doxycycline (Monodox, Oracea, Vibramycin) two antibiotics which needs to be taken orally.

It is also suggested by research that oral genifloxacin (Factive) or injectable gentamicin when it is combined with oral azithromycin is very successful in the management of gonorrhea.

These treatments have also been suggested to be effective in the treatment of people that are allergic to cephalosporins antibiotics such as ceftriaxone.

Partners also need to undergo testing and provided with the same treatment as you do. Even when treated with gonorrhea, it is possible to be re-infected by your partner when they are not treated.

Babies born of mothers with gonorrhea are treated in their eyes soon after birth to control the infection. When the eye infection develops, babies will be treated with antibiotics.

12 An overview of the healing process


Most medication that is used to treat gonorrhea will be antibiotic in nature. The typical treatment is an injection which is followed by a tablet to be ingested via the mouth. The doses of antibiotics are taken for several days.

Some individuals may prefer only antibiotic tablets rather than injections.

A few days after the treatment, the symptoms of gonorrhea will start to disappear. It is however required that you take the whole instructed course of antibiotics even when the symptoms begin to disappear.

Treatment that is stopped sooner might cause the infection to reappear or even become resistant.

The follow-up appointment

This is usually one to two weeks after gonorrhea treatment. It is carried out to ensure that the disease has completely disappeared. During the recovery period, you will be advised to avoid any sexual contact.

Notifying partners

Partners exposed to gonorrhea must be notified. If only one partner is treated, there will be a high probability that the infection will be spread.

It is therefore advisable to contact sexual partners so that you both get the required treatment, and prevent reinfection.

13 What happens if gonorrhea antibiotics are unsuccessful?

Antibiotic failure is usually due to bodily resistance. For example, resistance to azithromycin, penicillin, sulfa, or quinolones might occur. In the case of azithromycin, the doctor will recommend a combination treatment.

Two antibiotics (a shot of ceftriaxone and an oral dose of azithromycin, for example) may be administered, depending on the patient.

Another possible reason behind an unsuccessful course of antibiotics might be that you have contracted another type of infection from your partner.

Regular health screenings are necessary to prevent contraction and spreading of infections.

14 Prevention

Barrier protection

Using protection during sexual intercourse can help prevent STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. A crucial part of prevention will include early diagnosis and treatment. The earlier you are treated, the more of a chance you have to prevent the infection from spreading.

During sexual intercourse, you might use barrier protectors like condoms or dental dams. They will not only prevent you from contacting gonorrhea, but also other sexually transmitted diseases. Another form of prevention is water-based spermicides.

Health screenings

Individuals with high risk of sexually transmitted infections are encouraged to get regular checkups. This ensures any infections are diagnosed and treated quickly to prevent the spread to others. 

The following people are especially recommended to go for regular health screening:

  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • Those who have a new sexual partner. Both partners should go for initial screening
  • People with history of sexually transmitted diseases

15 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with gonorrhea.

There are several factors that may increase your risk of gonorrhea they include:

  • Younger age
  • New sex partner
  • Multiple partners
  • Previous gonorrhea infections

Unmanaged gonorrhea can lead to complications such as infertility in women,. It can also infect the fallopian tube, uterus, and induce pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) which may cause the scarring of the tubes.

This may also be associated with greater risks of pregnancy complications and infertility.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an serious condition that may require immediate treatment. Gonorrhea can also lead to infertility in men. It induces inflammation of the epididymis which can be treated but when left untreated, it may cause infertility.

Other infections which may spread to the joints and other areas of the body. Gonorrhea causing bacterium can spread through the blood stream and infect many other parts of the body such as the joints.

The possible results from the infection may include

There is also increase risk of HIV /AIDS since it makes one susceptible to infections. People with HIV/AIDS can pass the disease readily to their partners.

Complications in babies that contract gonorrhea from their mothers during birth can develop blindness, sores on the scalp and other infections they are predisposed since there immune system is affected in the process.

16 What happens if gonorrhea is not treated? Can it go away on its own?

The only sure way to know that gonorrhea has gone away is through gonorrhea treatment.

In women, the infection will spread to the Fallopian tubes and the uterus resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease. This disease can damage the fallopian tubes, causing tubal pregnancy. It might also lead to infertility and sometimes death.

A pregnant woman with gonorrhea has the risk of exposing her unborn child. The baby might contract the infection during childbirth. As a result, other infections like pneumonia and eye infections could set in. Severe eye infections might leave the child blind.

In men, the bacterial infection can cause unbearable inflammation to the testes or prostate. This will scar the urethra, thus interfering with normal urination. Inflammation of the scrotal tubes and testes may cause sterility.

In both men and women, there is a chance of the infection spreading into the bloodstream. This will affect the joints, potentially causing arthritis. The bacteria can also multiply in the blood causing a blood infection called septicemia.

This blood disease can infiltrate organs like the heart and brain, causing heart infections, meningitis, or even death.

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