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1. What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) that can infect both men and women. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years.

2. How is gonorrhea spread? 

You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.

 Gonorrhea Virus Image

3. Who should get tested?

* If you are sexually active, have an honest an open talk with your health care provider and ask if you should be tested for gonorrhea or other STIs.

 Pregnant women should get tested for gonorrhea and other STIs early in the pregnancy, with repeat testing as needed, to protect the health of the mother and baby.

 If you are a sexually active man who is gay, bisexual, or who has sex with men, you should be tested for gonorrhea every year, and possibly more often.

*   If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25 years, you should get tested every year. 

*  If you are a woman older than 25, with additional risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection, you should be tested for gonorrhea every year.

To find a free or low-cost testing location near you, visit

4. What are the symptoms of gonorrhea? 

Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. Men who DO have symptoms may have:

  • A burning sensation when urinating;
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis;
  • Painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common).

Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms. 

Symptoms in women can include:

  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating;
  • Increased vaginal discharge;
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods.

Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include:

  • Discharge;
  • Anal itching;
  • Soreness;
  • Bleeding;
  • Painful bowel movements.

You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STI or symptoms of an STI, such as an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.

5. How common is gonorrhea in Montana?

There were almost 1,700 cases of gonorrhea reported in Montana last year. Nearly half of those infected were in their twenties.  

6. What if I don't get treated?

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men.

In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Complications include scar tissue, pregnancy outside the womb, infertility and long term pain.

In men, gonorrhea can cause a painful condition in the tubes attached to the testicles. In rare cases, this may cause a man to be sterile, or prevent him from being able to father a child. Rarely, untreated gonorrhea can also spread to your blood or joints. This condition can be life-threatening. Untreated gonorrhea may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.

7. Can gonorrhea be cured? 

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. No home remedies or over-the-counter drugs will work. An antibiotic shot, plus an oral antibiotic is usually prescribed. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection, and you should not share it with anyone else. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not undo any permanent damage caused by the disease.

If you have been diagnosed, the Centers for Disease Control recommends these next steps.

Drug resistant strains of gonorrhea are increasing. If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to a health care provider to be checked again.

8. When can have sex again?

You should wait seven days after finishing all medications before having sex. To avoid getting infected with gonorrhea again or spreading gonorrhea to your partner(s), you and your sex partner(s) should avoid having sex until you have each completed treatment.

9. How can I reduce my risk?

The only way to avoid STIs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting gonorrhea:

PrEP, Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, a pill taken daily to prevent HIV infection, will NOT protect you from gonorrhea. PrEP is also known by the brand name  Truvada or Descovy.

Having gonorrhea once does NOT protect you from getting it again.

For more information visit the CDC gonorrhea page