3 minute read

If you’re sexually active—you can get gonorrhea. 

Published June 6, 2023

First, let’s answer a commonly asked question; is there a difference between STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)? They both mean that infections are being passed between people during sex. STIs occur when someone is infected with something that causes a disease. Infections don’t always progress and develop signs and symptoms, but when they do, they become STDs.  

If you're sexually active, gonorrhea can happen to you. You can greatly reduce your risk of getting an STI by educating yourself on the facts, using protection, getting tested, being honest with your partners, and if necessary, seeking treatment). Remember, protecting yourself means protecting others too.  

What is gonorrhea? 

Gonorrhea is a bacterial STI caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea, also known as "the clap," is a highly contagious infection that spreads through unprotected sexual contact. According to the CDC, gonorrhea is the second most reported bacterial STI in the United States. In 2018, there were about 1.6 million new cases. More than half of these infections occur in people between 15 and 24 years old. But many STIs don't cause any symptoms—so the number of known cases is only a fraction of the real number.¹

In people assigned male at birth, untreated gonorrhea can spread to the testicles and prostate gland and cause infertility. In people assigned female at birth, untreated gonorrhea can spread to reproductive organs and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. The first step to protecting yourself from gonorrhea is to educate yourself on the facts. 

How is gonorrhea transmitted? 

Did you know you can contract gonorrhea through oral sex—not just vaginal or anal sex? Gonorrhea spreads from person to person during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the infection. Pregnant people can also give gonorrhea to their baby during childbirth. 

Gonorrhea does not spread through casual contact. This means you don’t get gonorrhea from toilet seats, surfaces, clothing, sharing food or drinks, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. 

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea? 

Many STIs, including gonorrhea, do not have symptoms. The only way to know for certain whether you have an STI is to get tested.  

Some people may experience symptoms like: 

  • Painful urination 
  • Burning sensation while urinating 
  • Increased vaginal discharge  
  • Bleeding between periods 
  • Swollen or painful testicles 
  • White, yellow, or green discharge from the penis 
  • Redness or swelling at the opening of the penis 
  • Rectal pain, bleeding, or discharge 
  • Unusual sores in or around the genital area 
  • Painful bowel movements 

How do you test for gonorrhea? 

Gonorrhea can cause infection in the genitals, throat, and rectum. Testing for genital gonorrhea is usually done with a sample of urine or a penile or vaginal swab. Our Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Test offers an easy and confidential way to check for two of the most common STIs.  

How is gonorrhea treated?  

Gonorrhea is an STI that can be cured with the right treatment, but any permanent damage caused by the disease cannot be repaired by medication. There’s an increasing concern over resistance to medication in treating gonorrhea. Because of this, the CDC recommends that people with gonorrhea get retested 3 months after treatment—even if they believe they and their sexual partner(s) were successfully treated.¹

Additionally, the risk of getting or transmitting HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) increases with untreated gonorrhea. Don't hesitate to seek testing and proper treatment for gonorrhea and protect yourself from future medical conditions. 

How do you prevent gonorrhea? 

Using protection can greatly reduce your risk of getting gonorrhea. Condoms are the most effective method of protection, but they're not foolproof. It's still possible to contract certain STIs even if you use a condom. Other methods of protection, such as dental dams and female condoms, can also be effective. It's important to use protection correctly every time you have sex. 

I’ve been diagnosed with gonorrhea, what do I do?  

It's important to properly take care of yourself and your partner(s). If you've been diagnosed with gonorrhea, tell all recent sexual partners (vaginal, anal, and oral) so they can also get checked and treated. This will not only prevent serious health complications, but it also reduces everyone's risk of becoming reinfected. 

If you or a partner have gonorrhea, keep the passion on pause until everyone is symptom-free and has completed treatment. This will help you and your partner(s) from getting or giving gonorrhea again. 

No doctor visit is required to buy your own lab test at questhealth.com. PWNHealth and its affiliates review your purchase to ensure it is medically appropriate before submitting the test order for processing. PWNHealth also reviews your test results and will contact you directly if they require prompt attention. Included in each purchase is the option to discuss your test results with an independent physician; however, you are also encouraged to speak with your primary healthcare provider. 


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea. Accessed March 25, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm 


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea.htm 
  2. https://www.questhealth.com/product/chlamydia-gonorrhea-test-11363M.html