What causes gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterial infection of the cervix in women or the urethra in men by the gonococcal bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The anus, throat and eyes can also be infected by gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is passed from one person to another during sexual contact that involves vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Gonorrhea infection can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal delivery.

Any person who engages in sexual activity can contract and pass on a gonorrhea infection, including heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual men and women.

What are the risk factors for gonorrhea?

The more sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of catching gonorrhea. Risk factors for gonorrhea include:

  • Being born to a mother with gonorrhea
  • Having multiple sexual partners (the more sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of catching gonorrhea)
  • Having sex, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, with a person who has gonorrhea
  • Having unprotected sex, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, with a partner who has had one or more other sexual partners
  • Pediatric sexual abuse by an infected individual
  • Sex work, contact with sex worker, or drug use
  • Use of contraceptive intrauterine devices (pelvic inflammatory disease)

Reducing your risk of gonorrhea

Catching and passing on gonorrhea is preventable. It is important to understand that it is possible to transmit gonorrhea even when there are no symptoms.

Not all people who are at risk for gonorrhea will develop the disease. You may be able to lower your risk of contracting and spreading gonorrhea by:

  • Abstaining from sexual activity after being diagnosed with gonorrhea until you and your sex partner(s) have been completely treated and are cleared to resume sexual activity by your health care provider

  • Engaging in sexual activities only within a mutually monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected with gonorrhea or has risk factors for gonorrhea

  • Getting regular, routine medical care

  • Seeking medical care as soon as possible after possible exposure to gonorrhea or after high-risk sexual activity

  • Seeking prenatal care early and regularly during a pregnancy

  • Using latex condoms properly for all sexual contact

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). More than 700,000 people in the United States get new gonorrheal infections each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Source: CDC). Young adult African-Ame... Read more about gonorrheaintroduction


What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Symptoms of gonorrhea infection vary among individuals. It is not unusual for both men and women with gonorrhea to have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all in the early stage of the disease. However, serious permanent damage to the reproductive tissues, infertility, and other complications can occur even in the absenc... Read more about gonorrheasymptoms


How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea is treatable, and prompt diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce the risk of developing serious complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, and minimize the spread of the disease to others. You can treat gonorrhea by consistently following your treatment plan. Treatment plans generally include antibiotic medications and other treatments. Sexual partners shou... Read more about gonorrheatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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