Gonorrhea guide

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a common STD...the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates some 700,000 new infections in the United States every year.* Unfortunately, because symptoms show up in fewer than half the cases, the gonorrhea infections often go undiagnosed and untreated.

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, that can be passed from person to person during unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex...even if the tongue, penis or sex toy doesn't fully penetrate the anus or vagina. The bacteria attacks the mucous membranes it comes in contact with, including inside the penis, vagina, anus and throat. It's also possible for an infected mother to transmit gonorrhea to her baby during vaginal childbirth, potentially causing a miscarriage, damage to the baby's eyes, or other health complications.

The good news is that gonorrhea is easily treated and curable with antibiotics. Left untreated, however, gonorrhea can lead to serious health problems down the road – from infertility to cystistis and Disseminated Gonoccocal Infection (DGI) — and increase your risk of getting other STDs, like HIV.

Gonorrhea spreads easily...if you have it, your sexual partner probably does, too. You should both get tested and treated at the same time so that you don't re-infect one another...or anyone else.


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."