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Know Your STDs and How to Prevent Them: Gonorrhea

It’s not exactly pleasant to think about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but it’s important to know your facts. Knowledge is power when it comes to prevention and treatment, and that’s why we at TEST SMARTLY LABS are here. Read up, and take control of your sexual health.

One of the most common STDs is gonorrhea.  According to the CDC, more than 700,000 new cases are reported every year, and the highest rate of contraction is among sexually active teenagers and young adults.

What causes gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea, sometimes known as “the clap,” is caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae that grows in warm, moist areas of the body, including the urethra, a woman’s reproductive tract, and even in the eyes.

How can I get it?

Gonorrhea is spread through all types of sex via contact with the mouth, vagina, penis or anus. Gonorrhea can also be passed from mother to infant during childbirth.

How will I know if I have it?

Symptoms usually appear two to five days after infection, but some people don’t have symptoms at all, and it’s not atypical for it to take a month for symptoms to show in men.

Symptoms in women include:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Burning or pain while urinating
  • Increased urination
  • Sore throat (gonococcal pharyngitis)
  • Pain during sex
  • Severe pain in lower abdomen
  • Fever


Symptoms in men include:

  • Burning or pain while urinating
  • Increased urination
  • Discharge from the penis (usually white, yellow or green)
  • Red or swollen opening of the penis
  • Tender or swollen testicles (epididymitis)
  • Sore throat (gonococcal pharyngitis)

What are the complications?

Because some people do not present symptoms, they may be completely unaware they’ve contracted gonorrhea and pass it to others without knowing.  Additionally, symptoms in women can be very mild and easily mistaken for another type of infection.  If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, a person can develop fever, rash and arthritis-like symptoms.

In women, untreated infections can lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, fertility problems, and ectopic pregnancy.

In men, untreated infections can lead to scarring and abscess of the urethra as well as fertility issues.

Both sexes can suffer infections of heart valves and joints, as well as meningitis.

Is it treatable?

Gonorrhea is easily treated by antibiotics if it has not spread to the blood stream or other areas.  Gonorrhea that has spread is more difficult to treat, but the success rate is still very high.

It’s also important to note that health care professionals are required to notify their State Board of Health about anyone diagnosed with gonorrhea to ensure the patient is treated and cured, and that any past sexual partners are found and notified.  The reason for this is that some strains of gonorrhea have developed antibiotic resistance to many previously used medications.

If you have contracted gonorrhea, you should also receive the hepatitis B vaccine, as well as the HPV vaccine if you are under the age of 26.

How can I prevent it?

The only way to absolutely prevent contracting gonorrhea is total abstinence from all kinds of sex. Limiting sexual relations to a monogamous relationship in which both partners have been tested and are free of STDs greatly reduces the risk of contracting gonorrhea.  Using latex condoms during intercourse and latex condoms or dental dams during oral sex also reduces the risk of transmission.

How can I get tested?

TEST SMARTLY LABS offers twenty testing locations across the United States. We offer secure specimen control, accurate and reliable results, and complete confidentiality at low prices without the hassle or cost of a doctor’s visit.  Use the drop-down menu at the top of this page under Prevention Sites or visit our website to find a location near you.

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