Last updated: October 12, 2022

En Español

What is gonorrhea? (clap, drip, GC, VD)

It is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium (germ).

How do I get gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is passed from one person to another by anal, oral or vaginal sex, and from mother to baby during birth.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

  • Discharge or pus from penis, vagina or rectum
  • Sore throat, possibly with trouble swallowing
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Bad cramping or severe pain in the lower abdomen in women (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)

Many people can have gonorrhea and spread it without having any symptoms! If symptoms do occur, it is usually between 2 and 10 days after contact with an infected person.

What happens if I have gonorrhea and I am not treated?

If gonorrhea is not treated, both men and women risk becoming sterile (unable to have babies). Untreated gonorrhea can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women because the germs go deep into the body, damaging the reproductive system. The tiny tubes of the reproductive system can then become scarred and blocked as the body fights the infection.

Remember, you will get gonorrhea again unless every one of your sex partners is treated and cured. Having this infection once does not protect a person from getting it again. Douches and enemas can wash gonorrhea and other germs deeper into the body. Do not use them without checking with your doctor first.


  • Increased risk of getting HIV
  • Sterility (unable to have babies)
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (women)
  • Gonorrhea may also get into the blood, joints, heart or brain
  • In newborns, it might get into the eyes and cause blindness

How can I prevent getting gonorrhea?

The best way to prevent getting gonorrhea is to avoid sexual contact with an infected person. One way to do this is by practicing abstinence. Abstinence means not having sex with anyone. Another way to prevent getting gonorrhea is by having only one partner who only has sex with you.

People who decide to have sex, especially if they have multiple partners, must be responsible for protecting themselves and others from infections. You can do this by knowing the right way to use condoms and barriers, and use them every time you have sex. Condoms can help prevent the spread of gonorrhea. Though not 100% effective, condoms are the best protection. Even if using another birth control method, use a condom if there is a risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection during sex. Also, it is important to avoid abusing alcohol and drugs because they can prevent you from making safe choices to protect your health.

Is there a test and treatment for gonorrhea?

Yes. You can be tested for gonorrhea, even when there are no symptoms. A swab may be used to get a sample. There is also a new urine test. Not all doctors test for gonorrhea; therefore, be sure to ask your doctor if you wish to be tested. Special antibiotics can cure gonorrhea if you test positive. If you think you have symptoms, call the Department of Health for confidential referral and treatment.

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, make sure your partners get treated; you can continue to get reinfected if you are not both treated. If you have or your partner has gonorrhea, do not have sex until treatment is complete. Take all medicine as prescribed, even if you had no symptoms or your symptoms are gone. If you are pregnant, get tested for STDs and HIV early and again late in your pregnancy.

For more information on gonorrhea, referrals and CONFIDENTIAL treatment, contact:

STI Prevention and Care Program
Anne Arundel County Department of Health
1 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Suite 200
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Contact Us | Directory of Services | Employment Opportunities | Employees Only

Anne Arundel County Government | Maryland Department of Health | Site Use Policy and Disclaimer | ADA Notice

Anne Arundel County Department of Health | 3 Harry S. Truman Parkway Annapolis, Maryland 21401
410-222-7095 | TTY (Relay): 7-1-1 | © 2023