Gonorrhea (also called clap, drip, or GC) is a sexually transmitted disease. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of the urethra in men and of the urethra, the cervix, or both in women; and it may infect the rectum, throat, and pelvic organs also.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious medical problems, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and pelvic inflammatory disease in women.

Many people who are infected with gonorrhea don't have symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include painful urination, anal itching or bleeding, or abnormal discharge from the urethra in men or from the urethra, the cervix, or both in women. In men, symptoms are usually obvious enough that they will cause a man to seek medical attention before complications occur. In women, the early symptoms are sometimes so mild that they are mistaken for a bladder infection or vaginal infection.

Gonorrhea can be spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. A pregnant woman may pass the infection to her newborn during delivery. Gonorrhea can be transmitted at any time by an infected person, whether or not symptoms are present. An infected person is contagious until he or she has been treated.

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics, which usually cure gonorrhea infections when they are taken exactly as directed. Prompt antibiotic treatment also prevents the spread of the infection and reduces complications.

Last Updated: April 27, 2009

Author: Sandy Jocoy, RN

Medical Review: Joy Melnikow, MD, MPH - Family Medicine & Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease

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