Skip page navigation

Skip page navigation

Campus Health

Health Education

Sexual Health

STDs: Gonorrhea
What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It infects the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women and in the urethra in both women and men. It can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.

How is gonorrhea transmitted?

Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted. Any sexually active person can contract gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother to baby during childbirth.

How common is gonorrhea?

The CDC estimates that more than 700,000 people in the U.S. contract gonorrhea each year. In 2001, there were 6,979 new cases of gonorrhea reported in Indiana; and individuals aged 20-29 had the highest incidence rate.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Eighty percent of women and 10% of men with gonorrhea experience no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they usually appear within 2 to 5 days and up to 30 days after exposure. Symptoms can include:

In Women: In Men:
Painful or burning sensation while urinating Painful or burning sensation while urinating
Increased vaginal discharge - could be white, yellow, or green White, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
Vaginal bleeding between periods Painful or swollen testicles
Anal pain, itching, bleeding, or discharge (in rectal infections) Anal pain, itching, bleeding, or discharge (in rectal infections)
Painful bowel movements (in rectal infections) Painful bowel movements (in rectal infections)
Sore throat (in throat infections) Sore throat (in throat infections)
Pelvic or lower abdominal pain  
How is gonorrhea diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may swab the cervix, vagina, rectum, urethra, or throat for culture. A urine test can also be used to test for gonorrhea if the infection is in the urethra. Generally, a swab is best for women, and urine testing is best for men unless a rectal or throat infection is suspected. If a rectal or throat infection is suspected then a culture (swab) is the best method of diagnosis.

How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea is treated with oral antibiotics (sometimes with only one pill) or a shot. There are drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea emerging that make treatment difficult. A person with gonorrhea will often be treated for Chlamydia.

Even if your symptoms go away, you should complete the entire prescription to prevent recurrence.

Does my partner need to be treated?

Yes. You should tell your partner right away if you are diagnosed with gonorrhea. He or she will need to be tested and treated for gonorrhea. If only one partner is treated, the infection could be passed back and forth.

What are the possible complications if gonorrhea is not treated?

Complications of untreated gonorrhea can include the following:

In women, gonorrhea can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). When symptoms of PID are present, they can include chronic pelvic pain and fever. In addition, PID can lead to damage of the fallopian tubes and increase possibility of infertility and ectopic pregnancy. In women, gonorrhea can also lead to chronic menstrual difficulties and cystitis.

If a woman with gonorrhea is pregnant, she can pass the infection on to her baby during childbirth. This can cause blindness, joint infection, or life-threatening blood infection in the baby.

In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility if left untreated. It can also cause inflammation of the prostate, scarring of the urethra, and infertility.

In both men and women, gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints, which can be life-threatening. People with gonorrhea can more easily contract or transmit HIV.


Gonorrhea is a reportable disease. A diagnose of gonorrhea is reported to the Indiana State Department of Health to ensure that the diagnosed individual and all sexual contacts within the last 90 days are tested and treated.