Gonorrhea: Transmission, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Prevention

Gonorrhea, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is a prevalent sexually transmitted infection. This article delves into the details of gonorrhea, covering aspects such as transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and prevention strategies.

Transmission of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is exclusively transmitted through unprotected oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Contrary to common misconceptions, the infection cannot be contracted from toilet seats or door handles. The bacterium requires specific conditions for survival and cannot thrive outside the human body for more than a few seconds.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea

Symptoms of gonorrhea can vary, with many infected women exhibiting no signs, particularly in the early stages. Men are more likely to experience symptoms, including:

  • Burning sensation
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Yellowish vaginal discharge
  • Redness and swelling of the genitals
  • Burning or itching in the vaginal area
  • Sore throat

Untreated gonorrhea can lead to severe pelvic infections, impacting the Fallopian tubes and ovaries. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may result, causing symptoms like fever, pelvic cramping, pain during intercourse, and potentially leading to fertility issues or life-threatening complications.

Diagnosing Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is diagnosed through swabs of infected sites (throat, cervix, urethra, rectum) or urine testing. Laboratory methods, including culturing or DNA probes, identify the presence of the bacteria. While more expensive, newer DNA-based tests, like polymerase chain reaction (PCR), offer rapid results.

Treatments and Antibiotic Resistance

Though some strains of gonorrhea are resistant to certain antibiotics, the infection is still treatable. Common treatments include a single injection of ceftriaxone or an oral dose of cefixime. Alternative regimens may involve spectinomycin or cephalosporins. It’s crucial to include medication for chlamydia, often coexisting with gonorrhea.

Patients with PID may require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics, addressing the specific bacteria causing gonorrhea and other organisms. Notably, doxycycline, recommended for PID treatment, is not suitable for pregnant women.

Preventing Gonorrhea

Preventing gonorrhea involves practicing safe sex through barrier methods such as latex condoms, dental dams, and internal condoms. Mutual monogamy with a partner who has been tested or treated is another preventive option.


Knowledge of gonorrhea’s transmission, symptoms, and available treatments is crucial for effective prevention and management. Practicing safe sex and seeking prompt medical attention for diagnosis and treatment are essential steps in addressing and preventing the spread of gonorrhea. Individuals should prioritize open communication with healthcare providers and adopt preventive measures to promote sexual health.


  1. Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO Board Certificate: Internal Medicine/Geriatric Medicine.
  2. “Current Concepts in Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” Bong Suk Shim.
  3. “Chlamydial infection increases gonococcal colonization in a novel murine coinfection model”
  4. Rachel A. Vonck et al “Pelvic inflammatory disease”
  5. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  6. United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Gonorrhea — CDC Fact Sheet.” June 2017.

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