Gonorrhea (neisseria gonorrheae)

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. It is sometimes referred to as “the clap.”

How do you get Gonorrhea?

  • From sexual relations with penetration of the penis in the vagina or anus;
  • From oral sex;
  • When sex toys are shared;
  • An infected mother can transmit the bacteria to her baby during delivery.

What are the symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Often, there are no symptoms.

Here are some possible symptoms that may arise 2 to 10 days after an incidence of at-risk sexual behaviour:

Women Men
  • new or unusual vaginal discharge
  • painful burning during urination
  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • fever and chills
  • pain during intercourse
  • bleeding between periods or after intercourse
  • anal pain
  • anal discharge
  • sore throat (after oral sex)
  • yellow or green pus-like discharge from the penis
  • burning sensation during urination
  • painful or swollen testicles
  • anal pain
  • anal discharge
  • fever and chills
  • sore throat (after oral sex)

What are the possible complications of Gonorrhea?

Complications from gonorrhea are more prevalent among women than men, and are often due to a late diagnosis or poor treatment.

If left untreated, the disease may spread to the uterus and the fallopian tubes, causing an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb). In men, the disease can spread to the prostate or the testicles and cause pain. Gonorrhea can cause infertility in both men and women.

How is Gonorrhea diagnosed?

A health-care professional may take a urine sample or a mucus sample from a woman’s cervix or a man’s urethra. If necessary, samples will be taken from the throat or rectum.

Regular testing is important, especially for people who have unprotected sex with multiple partners.

What is the treatment for Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics prescribed by a health-care professional. Treatment is free in Quebec for the infected person and his or her partner(s), who must also be treated.

It is recommended that the patient practice abstinence (not have sexual relations) for the duration of the treatment.

How can Gonorrhea be prevented?

  • Use a condom at all times with all your partners (during sexual relations with or without penetration as well as during oral sex);
  • Be tested regularly for STBBI; ask your doctor how often you should be tested;
  • Limit the number of your sexual partners.

What are the risks for HIV-positive people?

  • HIV-negative people infected with gonorrhea are five times more likely to contract HIV from sexual relations.
  • HIV-positive people infected with untreated gonorrhea may have a ten-fold increase in levels of HIV in their genital or anal fluids, which can increase the risk of transmission of HIV to their partners.

Additional information

People with Chlamydia are often also infected by gonorrhea. Testing and treatment should always be carried out for both infections.

Reporting of gonorrhea is compulsory in Quebec.* Therefore, doctors who diagnose Gonorrhea must inform the Public Health Department of their region.

A public health professional will offer support in identifying and informing sexual partners up to 6 weeks prior to the appearance of the first symptoms. If the person with gonorrhea is asymptomatic, sexual partners from even earlier must also be informed.

*Outside Quebec, similar public health laws apply.

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