Gonorrhea guide

Gonorrhea risk factors

How do people get infected with gonorrhea?

Anyone can get gonorrhea, usually through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. The most common risk factors are:

  • A history of gonorrhea
  • A history of unprotected sex
  • A new sexual partner
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • A history of substance abuse

Due to reporting disparities and a number of other variables, there is a higher prevalence of gonorrhea among sexually active females, teenagers, young adults and African-Americans...for example, women are more likely to get screened, and some ethnic and racial minority groups are more likely to use public clinics that report STD cases. As well, awareness of STDs and how to prevent them, and access to regular healthcare are inconsistent among populations that are disadvantaged by poverty and other social determinants...these groups may therefore be more likely to engage in risky sexual activity.

What are some ways that gonorrhea cannot be spread?

You cannot get gonorrhea from toilet seats, towels, shaking hands, deep kissing, sharing a glass of water, or the like. Gonorrhea is only transmitted sexually, or through birth.

If I get gonorrhea once, is it possible to get it again?

Even if you've been treated for gonorrhea, you're not immune...you can be re-infected. That's why sexual partners should be treated at the same time so that an untreated partner still carrying the bacteria doesn't re-infect the treated partner.

Want to learn more?

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."

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