Gonorrhea is an infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is spread during sex. Both sexes can get gonorrhea and most often affects the throat, urethra, or rectum. It can also infect the cervix in women. 

Gonorrhea in babies generally infects the eyes (babies can be infected during birth by their mothers if they have it). 

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can affect multiple areas of the body, but generally, it appears in the genital tract. The majority of the time there are no symptoms. 

Signs of gonorrhea for males

  • Pus-like discharge from the penis
  • Difficulty in urination from burning sensations
  • One or both testicles can become swollen or painful

Signs of gonorrhea for females

  • Vaginal discharge that may have an odor
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Bleeding between monthly periods and/or during intercourse

Signs of gonorrhea in other areas of the body

Rectum – itching, pus-like discharge, bright red blood on toilet tissue after a difficult bowel movement

Eyes – discharge from one or both eyes, pain, and sensitivity to light. 

Throat – swollen lymph nodes in the neck and/or a sore throat

Joints – may become affected by bacteria (septic arthritis) will be warm, red, and swollen. There will be extreme pain especially when moving the affected joint

Time to see your doctor

 It is time to see your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms. If your partner has been told they have gonorrhea you also need to see your doctor even if you do not have any symptoms you need to get tested and treated so that you do not get infected or re-infect your partner after they have finished medications. 

Things to prepare for your doctor’s appointment

Since most doctors are running behind, your time with the doctor may be limited so before you go prepare for the appointment by making a list of symptoms you are having and any questions you may need an answer to. You also should write down all medications you are taking including vitamins

  • What test will you need to run?
  • Should my partner be tested?
  • Should I be tested or treated for other types of STIs and/or STDs?
  • Is there generics for the medications you are giving me?
  • How long should I wait to have sex?
  • What side effects or complications should I watch for?
  • What preventative measures can I take so I don’t get re-infected in the future?

Increase risk for gonorrhea

Things that may increase your risk for gonorrhea are:

  • Younger age (15-25)
  • Multiple partners
  • Unsafe sexual practices (no condoms)
  • A new sexual partner
  • Previous case of gonorrhea
  • Other sexually transmitted diseases

Complications of untreated gonorrhea

  • Infertility in both men and women
  • Spreading to joints as well as other parts of your body
  • Increased risk of HIV/AIDS
  • Complications in babies – blindness, sores on scalp, and infections 


Gonorrhea is usually treated with antibiotics.  Your partner will get the same antibiotics as you. Side effects from these can be

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash