Gonorrhea – sometimes called “the Clap” – is caused by a certain type of bacteria. Most often, it infects the penis or vagina, but it can also infect the rectum, throat, or eyes.

Who has it?

Gonorrhea is a common STI in the US. In 2016, over 450,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported to the CDC in the US. Infections are particularly common in young people, and less than half of those infections are reported and treated. In California alone, there were over 75,000 reported cases of gonorrhea in 2017.

How do you get gonorrhea?

The bacteria that causes gonorrhea likes to live in moist areas of the body like the vagina, penis, eyes, throat, and rectum. You can get gonorrhea from contact with any of these areas on someone who is infected – that includes all types of sex, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex.

How do you know you have gonorrhea?

Most people who have it don’t know it because they don’t have symptoms. Men are more likely to have symptoms than women. Men might experience burning when they pee, a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis, or painful, swollen testicles . A few women have pain when they pee or pain in their lower abdomen .

How do you test for gonorrhea?

Any clinician can do a simple and painless urine test to find out if you have gonorrhea. Your doctor may also collect a swab sample from the vagina, cervix , urethra, rectum or throat during a physical exam.

Can you get rid of gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics. A clinician may give you an antibiotic shot along with other medicine to take in the clinic, or he or she may prescribe pills.

To keep from infecting your partners, you should avoid sex until you have taken all the antibiotics and your partner has been tested and treated if necessary. If you do end up having sex while the antibiotics are still working it is really important to use a condom or else it is likely the medicine you took won’t work.

If you get antibiotic pills, make sure you take them all even if you start to feel better – otherwise the infection might not go away completely.

How can you protect yourself from getting gonorrhea?

The only method that is 100% effective in preventing STIs is abstinence, but if you’re sexually active, the best way to avoid gonorrhea is to be mutually monogamous with someone who has tested negative for gonorrhea.

If you test positive for gonorrhea, get tested again three (3) months later to make sure you don’t have it again. Condoms do decrease your chances of getting gonorrhea during vaginal sex or during oral sex with a male, but it’s important for both partners to get tested because it’s easy to get re-infected if one partner still has it.

To decrease your chances of getting gonorrhea during oral sex on a female, you can use a dental dam as a barrier between the mouth and vulva. A dental dam is a thin square of latex that is placed over a woman’s vulva before her partner performs oral sex on her and acts as a barrier between the vulva and the mouth. They are sold in some stores, but you can make your own dental dam using a latex glove or a male condom. To decrease your chances of getting gonorrhea during any type of anal sex (rimming, penetration, etc.), you can use a female condom.

If you’re sexually active and under 25, you should get tested for gonorrhea every year – better safe than sorry.

What’s the worst that could happen?

For women, a gonorrhea infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of parts of the reproductive system, like the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. That means if you have gonorrhea and you don’t get it treated, you might not be able to have babies if and when you want to. If a woman has gonorrhea while she is pregnant, gonorrhea could harm the baby’s eyes during birth.

Rarely, a man with untreated gonorrhea could get a bad infection that causes scarring of the tubes that carry sperm. If this happens, he might not be able to have children.