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What is Gonorrhea?

All HOMED-IQ content is reviewed by medical specialists

Gonorrhea is an STI caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. Gonorrhea is usually spread through unprotected sex with an infected person. Have you had unprotected sex or been advised by a previous partner to get tested? Using Homed-IQ’s simple home STI tests you can quickly check your STI status. Homed-IQ has several home tests available to test for gonorrhea and other STIs, such as the Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test, the Basic-3 STI Test, and the STI Test Complete.

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a common infection caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea is sometimes called “the drip” or “the clap”. 

How do you get infected with gonorrhea?

An infection with gonorrhea can occur during unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, or from mother to child during birth. The bacterium can attach to the mucous membrane of the anus, penis, vagina and also infect the eyes, cervix, or throat (UMC Utrecht).

Can you prevent a gonorrhea infection?

Gonorrhea can be prevented by having sex using a condom or other barriers. If you share sex toys with someone else, it is also important to disinfect them thoroughly. Another way to prevent gonorrhea is to get tested before having sex with a new partner.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Symptoms of gonorrhea differ between men and women. While approximately 90% of men experience symptoms within a few days of infection, women may experience little to no symptoms (Thuisarts, 2021).

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea in men:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Sore throat
  • Itching or pain in the anus
  • Discharge from penis
  • In advanced infection: inflammation of the epididymis and/or inflammation of the prostate

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea in women:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Sore throat
  • Itching or pain in the anus
  • Vaginal discharge that is yellow-green in color
  • Vaginal bleeding while not on your period
  • In advanced infection: inflammation of your uterus and fallopian tubes, which may cause abdominal pain, fever, or fertility problems

Can you have gonorrhea without symptoms?

Asymptomatic gonorrhea occurs more often in women, but is also possible in men. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you still are contagious. Long term infection with gonorrhea can have negative health effects, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or rare complications in which the bacteria infects the bloodstream. That is why it is important to check your STI status with a gonorrhea test after unprotected sex, even if you have no symptoms.

Gonorrhea Testing

A gonorrhea test is easy and discreet to perform with Homed-IQ’s home STI tests. Testing for gonorrhea only requires a urine sample for men and a vaginal swab for women. If you choose to test for other STIs like syphilis and HIV, you will also be required to submit a finger-prick blood sample. The analysis of the test is done by a certified laboratory.

What is the incubation period of gonorrhea?

The incubation period for gonorrhea is usually two days to three weeks. However, the average incubation time is five days. The maximum incubation period for men is 57 days, and for women 180 days (RIVM, 2020).

When should you do a gonorrhea test?

It is important to test for gonorrhea if you believe you may have been exposed, such as after unprotected sex or if a former sexual partner has told you to get tested. Additionally, if you experience any symptoms or simply would like to check in on your sexual health, an STI test is a good idea.

What are the long-term effects of gonorrhea?

The long-term effects of gonorrhea vary from person to person. If it is not treated in time, the infection can move to other parts of the body. In men, for example, to the epididymis, prostate, or urethra. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may also occur in women, in which the infection spreads to the reproductive organs. PID can cause infertility, miscarriage, and premature labour.

How serious is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is easily treatable with antibiotics. However, the infection can cause serious health effects if left untreated. That is why it is important to be tested regularly and seek prompt treatment if you test positive.

Can you die from gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea only leads to death in rare cases that go without treatment for a long time. In most cases, it is easily treatable and individuals with the infection make a full recovery.

How long can gonorrhea be in your body?

Without treatment, gonorrhea can remain in your body for years. After antibiotics, gonorrhea remains in the body for about a week before the infection is cleared.

How common is gonorrhea in the Netherlands?

The Dutch public health authority (RIVM) reports that more than 14,000 cases of gonorrhea were diagnosed in 2019 and more than 6,700 were diagnosed in 2020 (RIVM, 2021). The decrease in cases may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of which fewer people have been tested.

How do you treat gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics and the exact treatment varies from person to person. The most common method is a single injection with ceftriaxone. It may also be the case that treatment takes place with other antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or ciprofloxacin (RIVM, 2020). The antibiotic azithromycin is also an option, but has the disadvantage that a high dose is required, with unpleasant side effects as a result.

Can gonorrhea be cured?

Gonorrhea can be easily cured with antibiotic treatment. Please note that after treatment, you should not have sex for the first week as the infection is still clearing. This applies to oral, anal, and vaginal sex. It is still possible to spread gonorrhea before treatment has ended. 

About the Author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. She has completed a Research Master in Health Sciences at Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences (NIHES) with a specialization in epidemiology, and a B.Sc. in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. With a background in public health, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and enables people to make informed decisions. Within Homed-IQ, Lauren serves as Product Developer and Content Lead, working closely with medical doctors and medical device scientists on Homed-IQ’s new products and written communications.