What the heck is it anyway?

You mean aside from being weirdly tricky to pronounce (gon-o-RHEE-a) and spell? Gonorrhea is one of the most common STIs in teens, and it’s caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Also known as “the clap” or “the drip”, gonorrhea infects an estimated 820,000 people in the U.S. per year. Gonorrhea is spread through sexual contact (vaginal, oral and anal). It’s pretty curable once it’s diagnosed, but gonorrhea can cause serious health problems like infertility if it goes untreated.

A lot of people with gonorrhea don’t know they have it. Four out of five women and one in ten men with gonorrhea don’t show symptoms at all. Nine out of ten oral infections don’t show symptoms either. When symptoms appear, they can include:

  • Yellowish-white discharge
  • Pain/burning during urination
  • Urinating more often
  • Abdominal pain

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to more serious health problems, including:

  • Infertility
  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)
  • Scarring of the urethra
  • Long-term menstrual problems

Gonorrhea is a common STI, especially among people 15-24 years old. The CDC recommends that all sexually active people (especially people with new or multiple sexual partners) get tested for gonorrhea every year. If you’re sexually active, condoms (external or internal) provide excellent protection against gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is also pretty easy to treat with antibiotics, so if you test positive, it’s easy to take your medicine and get back to your normal routine.

Doctors will test for gonorrhea in a few different ways, usually a swab or urine test. People infected with gonorrhea are also infected with chlamydia, so doctors will often treat both at once. Nifty fact: The cost of treating chlamydia is cheaper than testing for it. If you’re diagnosed with gonorrhea, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotic treatments for both infections.


In North Carolina, you have the right to get confidential STI tests and treatment without a parent’s permission. Want to talk to a doctor, but not sure where to start? Use this nifty search tool to find a testing site near you.