Gonorrhea (gon-oh-REE-ah) (also called “GC,” “clap,” or “drip”) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is caused by bacteria that is passed from one partner to another during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Many people who have gonorrhea have no symptoms
. They can carry and pass it to their sex partners without knowing it. If you do get symptoms, they usually show up within 30 days after having sex with an infected person.
- Yellowish discharge from vagina or anus
- Lower belly pain
- Bleeding from the vagina that is not your regular period
- Pain when you pass water (urination)
- Swelling or redness of the throat
- Discharge from the penis
- Burning when urinating
If not treated, gonorrhea can cause:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — a serious problem that may damage the reproductive organs
- Ectopic pregnancy—a fertilized egg grows in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus, eventually causing the tube to rupture (which can be a medical emergency)
- Infertility — women may be unable to get pregnant
A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can pass it to her baby during birth. It can cause serious problems for newborn babies.
It is very important for pregnant women to get early and regular prenatal care to prevent infant health problems.
Your doctor can tell if you have gonorrhea by taking a small sample of cells from the cervix or penis.
You will be given an antibiotic (AN-tee-by-OT-ik) by mouth or by injection. Your sexual partner must also be treated for gonorrhea. Do not have sex until both of you have finished the medicine.
After treatment, you can be reinfected each time you are exposed to another STD.
Reduce your risks
If you have sex, you could be at risk for having an STD. See your doctor to be tested.
Following are some ways to reduce your risk.
- Don’t have sex. Not having sex is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
- Limit your sexual partners. The best protection is to have sex with only one person who is free of infection and who does not have sex with other people.
- Know your partner. Talk with your partner before you have sex. You should know your partner’s past sexual history. Has your partner ever had an STD? How many sexual partners has he or she had?
- Look before you have sex. Do not be afraid to look before you have sex. If you see any sores, a rash, or discharge, talk to your partner about it. But remember, you can’t always tell by looking.
- Always use a condom. Protect yourself by using latex condoms with spermicide every time you have sex. Carry them with you and be sure to use them. Using condoms the right way is very, very important. For protection against pregnancy, use a spermicidal foam, jelly, or cream along with a condom.
- Get regular STD check-ups. You should get a regular check-up for STDs every 6 months if:
- You have sex with more than one partner
- You have sex with a new partner
- Your partner has sex with others
Other resources for STD information
Use condoms the right way
Except for not having sex (abstinence), latex condoms give the best protection from many sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Condoms are helpful only if they are used the right way.
Note: If you or your partner has an allergy to latex, talk with your doctor.
Important steps for using condoms correctly:
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex.
- When using a lubricant, do not use anything oil-based like Vaseline. Use only water-based lubricants like K-Y Jelly.
- Always put the condom on before the penis touches or enters the vagina.
- After ejaculation, the man should withdraw from the vagina while the penis is still erect. While taking the penis out of the vagina, hold onto the rim of the condom. This will keep it from slipping off.
- Pull the condom and the penis out of the vagina together.
Revised September 2011