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All About Gonorrhea


Gonorrhea, also known as the clap, is a common STI caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. People at risk for gonorrhea tend to also be at risk for chlamydia, so doctors tend to test for both together.

Fast facts about

Did you know...
About 50% of people with vaginas will not have symptoms if they are infected with gonorrhea.

Did you know...
Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in Canada and infection rates are increasing, growing 65.4% between 2010 and 2015.

Did you know...
A major concern with gonorrhea is antibiotic resistance. New strains of gonorrhea have demonstrated resistance to some of our strongest antibiotics and are harder to treat now.  

Did you know...
Most of the time, gonorrhea infects the genitals (vagina, penis). However, it can also be contracted in the throat, rectum, or even the eyes!

How might gonorrhea be contracted?

Gonorrhea can be transmitted through any sexual contact, including handjobs, blowjobs, and penetrative sex.

Gonorrhea can also be transmitted by sharing sex toys or equipment.

Importantly, infection can happen without penetration or ejaculation.

How is gonorrhea detected?

It might take 2 to 7 days to show symptoms (if any) after infection occurs. Keep in mind that most people don't show any signs of infection! When it doubt, the best way to find out is to get tested.

Possible signs & symptoms

Some of these symptoms might indicate a gonorrhea infection.

Pain or burning during sex or urination

Vagina is leaking fluid (discharge) that might smell or is discoloured (green, yellow, off-white etc.)

Pain in your abdomen or back

Unusual bleeding from the vagina

Red or itchy eyes, that might or might not have discharge

Pain, itching or bleeding in your rectum

Sore throat or swelling

Uh oh... What can go wrong with gonorrhea infections?

Gonorrhea is very easily treated without any major permanent complications. However, if gonorrhea remains untreated, it can develop into more serious issues that can cause permanent problems.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

When gonorrhea in the vagina is untreated, it can progress and the infection can spread deeper into the body, infecting the uterus and fallopian tubes. This is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and can lead to severe problems, such as:

Ectopic Pregnancy
A condition where the pregnancy happens in the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus

A condition where pregnancy is difficult to achieve despite regular, unprotected sex

Chronic Pelvic Pain
Pain in the area below the belly button that lasts for 6 months or more

Every year, about 100,000 Canadians experience symptoms of PID. About 10 to 15% of people who have vaginas are expected to have an episode of PID in their lifetime.


When gonorrhea occurs at the same time as a pregnancy, it can cause

Preterm Labour
The baby is born much earlier than expected


Low Birth Weight

Birth Infection
The baby is born infected with gonorrhea

Other Issues

Long term infections of gonorrhea can cause arthritis.

How is gonorrhea treated?

Treating gonorrhea requires a course of antibiotics. Usually, the antibiotics are injected or taken orally. The course and duration of treatment depends on how severe the infection is. It is important to follow treatment instructions on avoiding sex, so that it cannot be transmitted to others during the treatment period.

Once cured of gonorrhea, it cannot be passed onto later sexual partners. However, gonorrhea re-infection is possible again in the future.

Gonorrhea might be resistant to antibiotics, and sometimes additional follow up or treatment might be required.

How can gonorrhea be prevented?

There are several ways gonorrhea can be slowed down from spreading:

Practice safer sex

Safer sex practices such as condoms, dental dams, and not sharing sex toys can help reduce the chances of exposure to gonorrhea.

Remember that while birth control can be effective at preventing pregnancy, it does not necessarily prevent gonorrhea!

Get tested regularly and appropriately

Gonorrhea might not show any symptoms, so the only way to know for sure is to go for regular testing. Depending on a person's sexual habits and practices, and that of their partner(s), health organizations recommend testing every 3 to 12 months.

Bust the stigma!

Learning and talking about STIs helps everyone feel more comfortable discussing it. We know the conversations can be awkward, but it gets easier with practice. Talk to your partners about getting tested, and ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

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