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What is Gonorrhea?

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Sexual Health

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection that is bacterial in nature. Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium neisseria gonorrhoeae. 

Gonorrhea is contracted through vaginal, oral and anal sex. Gonorrhea may also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gonorrhea cases increased 5% between 2017-2018 in the United States, and increased 82.6% since the historic low in 2009.

Gonorrhea is particularly common in people aged 15-24 years of age. 

Even though gonorrhea is usually passed through sexual contact, it can affect other parts of the body excluding the genitals such as the: 

  • Joints (if the joints become injected by gonorrhea bacteria, it may lead to the joints becoming painful, warm, red and/or swollen)
  • Rectum (if the rectum is affected by gonorrhea - most commonly contracted through anal sex, it can lead to irregular discahrge, anal itching, bleeding or slight difficulties during bowel movements)
  • Throat (if the throat is affected by gonorrhea - most commonly contracted through oral sex, it may lead to swollen lymph nodes or a sore throat. These symptoms can sometimes mimic flu-like symptoms)
  • Eyes (if the eyes are affected by gonorrhea, you may experience pain in one or both eyes, irregular discharge from the eye or an increased sensitivity to light)

How do you get gonorrhea?

You can get gonorrhea through oral, anal and vaginal sex. 

Gonorrhea may also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy or child-birth. 

Some of the things that you can do to lower your risk of contracting gonorrhea include: 

  • Use a latex condom every time you have sex. 
  • Have open and honest conversations with your partners about your sexual history. 
  • Undergo a full sexual health screening before you start a new sexual relationship. 
  • If you are in a monogamous relationship, get a sexual health check annually. 
  • If you have multiple sexual partners, undergo sexual health screening every 3-6 months, especially if you are under 25 years of age. 

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What is usually the first sign of gonorrhea?

The first sign of gonorrhea in men and women is usually pain and/or a tingling or burning sensation during urination. 

Males will not develop signs or symptoms of gonorrhea for several weeks. Many males will not develop any symptoms. 

Females generally may not develop any symptoms of gonorrhea, but it’s possible that the symptoms will mimic that of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. These signs and symptoms can include itching and irritation around the penis a burning sensation during urination and sex. 

What does gonorrhea smell like?

Gonorrhea may carry a foul smelling odour. Usually the smell will depend on the symptoms that are being experienced. 

If there is irregular discharge from the penis or the vagina, it may smell fishy, some specialists say it may carry a mushroom-like odour

Irregular discharge as caused by gonorrhea may be an offish-white colour, green, yellow or grey. 

Can gonorrhea go away on its own?

Gonorrhea does not go away on its own. 

The symptoms of gonorrhea may go away on their own but it is unlikely that the infection will go away on its own. 

It’s important to note that there aren’t many studies on whether curable STDs can go away on their own because it would be unsafe to test this on study participants. 

Untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to dangerous health complications. Gonorrhea can lead to permanent health problems in males and females. 

In males, untreated gonorrhea may lead to epididymitis, a condition which affects the tubes attached to the testicles. This can lead to issues with fertility. 

In females, untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, issues with conception and long term abdominal pain.

Read: How does a gonorrhea test work?

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How does gonorrhea start?

Gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired. Gonorrhea can also be spread perinatally from mother to baby during childbirth.

Can you get gonorrhea from kissing?

Gonorrhea cannot be spread through kissing, or other casual contact such as a public toilet seat, hugging, sharing towels etc. 

What does gonorrhea in the throat feel like?

Gonorrhea in the throat can feel like flu-like symptoms. 

It may feel sore. You may feel a burning sensation or inflammation, if the glands in the throat become swollen. 

What is the difference between chlamydia and gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea and chlamydia have some similarities but they are different sexually transmitted infections. 

  • Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria neisseria gonorrhoeae.
  • Chlamydia is caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis.

If you are worried that you may have gonorrhea or chlamydia , you should get tested as soon as possible, because the earlier you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can get treated. 


Hannah Kingston

Hannah Kingston

Mar 25, 2022

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