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Gonorrhea Information

Gonorrhea Overview

  • Caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Also called "clap," "drip," or GC
  • Women ages 15-24 years old and men ages 20-29 years old have the highest rates of gonorrhea in LA County
  • Many men and most women have no symptoms
  • Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics
  • Having gonorrhea can increase your chances of getting HIV
  • Gonorrhea FAQ quick sheet (Próximamente en Español)

How do you get it?
You can get gonorrhea by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has gonorrhea. It is passed through contact with semen, vaginal fluids or discharge. Most people with gonorrhea do not know they have it, but they can still pass the disease. In women, gonorrhea infects the vagina or cervix and can be found in vaginal fluids. In men, gonorrhea infects the urethra (where urine and semen come out). Gonorrhea can also infect the rectum and throat. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can pass it to her newborn baby during childbirth.

Many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms. Men may develop a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis 1-14 days after infection, or as many as 30 days after. When a woman has symptoms, they are often so mild that they seem like a bladder or vaginal infection. Women may notice burning with urination,  increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods. In both men and women, rectal infections can cause anal discharge, itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements.  Infections in the throat may cause mild soreness or redness, but these symptoms are rare.

If gonorrhea is not treated, it can spread in the reproductive organs. In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause scarring and inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries, a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain, and can increase the risk of a life threatening ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. In men, untreated gonorrhea can lead to a painful infection of the testicles known as epididymitis, which can cause sterility. In rare cases, gonorrhea can spread to the blood stream and cause a general infection with rash and joint pain. A baby born to a mother with gonorrhea may develop an eye infection which can cause blindness.

To get tested for gonorrhea, go to a doctor or health clinic.  All sexually active women under age 25 should be tested for gonorrhea every year, and women 25 years or older should be tested if they have a new partner, multiple partners, or a partner with an STD. Men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year, and as often as every 3 to 6 months depending on your sexual behavior. Gonorrhea tests that require only a urine sample from the patient are now available at most clinics. In women, a test for gonorrhea can also be done by swabbing the cervix or vagina during a pelvic exam. For men who have sex with men, and for some other patients, your doctor may swab your throat or rectum to test for gonorrhea, or sometimes you can collect the rectal swab yourself. 

Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with two different antibiotics taken at the same time.   It takes one week for the medicine to completely cure gonorrhea. Make sure both you and your sex partner(s) are cured before having sex again. 

Antibiotic Resistance
Over time, the bacteria that cause gonorrhea have been able to develop resistance to many antibiotics, meaning that many medicines that used to cure the infection no longer work. This makes gonorrhea a major public health problem. It is important to take both of the medicines that cure gonorrhea at the same time and to follow your doctor's instructions. If you have symptoms and they continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to a health care provider to be checked again.

Latex condoms provide excellent protection against gonorrhea. The female condom and polyurethane (plastic) condoms are equally effective. Pregnant women should seek prenatal care early, to prevent passing gonorrhea to the newborn.

Gonorrhea Information BrochurePDF Icon(English) PDF Icon(Español) - Updated Nov. 2021

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