Gonorrhea Home > What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria that grow in the reproductive tract; urethra; and the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus. Symptoms tend to appear within 2 to 10 days after infection. If left untreated, the condition can lead to serious complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis

What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.
 

How Is Gonorrhea Transmitted?

Any sexually active person can be infected with gonorrhea. In the United States, the highest reported rates of infection are among sexually active teenagers, young adults, and African Americans.
 
(Click Gonorrhea Transmission for more information about how the disease is transmitted.)
 

What Are the Symptoms?

In most cases, signs and symptoms of gonorrhea will appear within 2 to 10 days after exposure to an infected partner. However, many women who have an infection do not have symptoms. When a woman does have signs and symptoms, they usually appear within 10 days after infection. Although many men with gonorrhea may not have symptoms, some signs can appear 2 to 5 days after infection.
 

How Is the Condition Diagnosed?

Tests that are used to diagnose gonorrhea include:
 
  • Staining samples directly for the bacterium
  • Detecting bacterial genes or DNA in the urine
  • Growing the bacteria in laboratory cultures.
 
The staining sample test works better for diagnosing gonorrhea in men than in women, and the gene test is more accurate than culturing the bacteria.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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