Gonorrhea Symptoms: What to Look For and When to Get Tested

young couple wondering what to do

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating there are approximately 1.6 million new infections each year. Many of these cases go undiagnosed because people either don’t know what symptoms to watch for, or in some cases, don’t develop symptoms at all.

Gonorrhea Symptoms

Gonorrhea symptoms differ from one person to the next. Some may experience just a single symptom, while others experience a combination of several symptoms. And while some symptoms can be experienced by both females and males, other symptoms are unique to one or the other.

Women with gonorrhea may experience:

  • Thin or watery vaginal discharge, which may be green or yellow
  • Painful or burning sensations when urinating
  • Pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Bleeding between periods, heavier periods and/or bleeding after sex

Men with gonorrhea may experience:

  • Unusual discharge from the penis, which may be white, yellow or green
  • Painful or burning sensations when urinating
  • Inflammation of the foreskin
  • Pain or tenderness in the testicles

Gonorrhea can also produce infections in the rectum, throat or eyes, which can result in discomfort, pain or discharge. 

Gonorrhea without Symptoms

While no one wants to experience the symptoms of gonorrhea, in many ways it’s even scarier that roughly 10-15% of infected men and about 80% of infected women may have no symptoms at all.

Without symptoms, these infected people may not be tested and treated. That leaves them susceptible to complications, potentially including infertility, and makes them likely to spread the infection to others who may then end up with symptoms. A person infected with gonorrhea can go on infecting others indefinitely until their infection is treated.

Who Gets Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is most common among people ages 15 to 24, representing about 50% of infections. This age group is actually more prone to contracting most sexually transmitted infections for reasons including:

  • Being more biologically susceptible
  • Not getting recommended STI/STD tests
  • Hesitancy to talk openly with a healthcare provider about their sex lives
  • Likelihood of having more than one sex partner

While gonorrhea is most common among younger people, anyone who is sexually active can get it. Even if you’re a mature adult and believe you’re in a committed relationship, it’s always wise to watch for the warning signs.

When to Get Tested

Women and men should be tested for gonorrhea if they experience any of the symptoms listed above and have reason to suspect those symptoms could be the result of an STI/STD.

Additionally, the CDC recommends annual STI/STD testing, including testing for gonorrhea, for any sexually active woman 24 years old and younger, as well as for any woman 25 years old or older with more than one sexual partner, a new sexual partner or a sexual partner with a known STI/STD. Women are far less likely than men to display gonorrhea symptoms, making regular testing more critical. In the absence of any symptoms, men should talk with their healthcare provider about their sexual history to determine if they should be tested.

How to Get Tested

In Gainesville, Sira provides free, confidential testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia (the most common STI/STD in the U.S.). Testing is available for women and men, and there’s no insurance required.

To schedule your free test, contact Sira today at 352-377-4947.

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