Diagnosis

To determine whether the gonorrhea bacterium is present in your body, your doctor will analyze a sample of cells. Samples can be collected by:

  • Urine test. This may help identify bacteria in your urethra.
  • Swab of affected area. A swab of your throat, urethra, vagina or rectum may collect bacteria that can be identified in a laboratory.

For women, home test kits are available for gonorrhea. Home test kits include vaginal swabs for self-testing that are sent to a specified lab for testing. If you prefer, you can choose to be notified by email or text message when your results are ready. You may then view your results online or receive them by calling a toll-free hotline.

Testing for other sexually transmitted infections

Your doctor may recommend tests for other sexually transmitted infections. Gonorrhea increases your risk of these infections, particularly chlamydia, which often accompanies gonorrhea. Testing for HIV also is recommended for anyone diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Depending on your risk factors, tests for additional sexually transmitted infections could be beneficial as well.

Treatment

Gonorrhea treatment in adults

Adults with gonorrhea are treated with antibiotics. Due to emerging strains of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that uncomplicated gonorrhea be treated only with the antibiotic ceftriaxone — given as an injection — in combination with either azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) or doxycycline (Monodox, Vibramycin, others) — two antibiotics that are taken orally.

Some research indicates that oral gemifloxacin (Factive) or injectable gentamicin, combined with oral azithromycin, is highly successful in treating gonorrhea. This treatment may be helpful in treating people who are allergic to cephalosporin antibiotics, such as ceftriaxone.

Gonorrhea treatment for partners

Your partner also should undergo testing and treatment for gonorrhea, even if he or she has no signs or symptoms. Your partner receives the same treatment you do. Even if you've been treated for gonorrhea, you can be reinfected if your partner isn't treated.

Gonorrhea treatment for babies

Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea receive a medication in their eyes soon after birth to prevent infection. If an eye infection develops, babies can be treated with antibiotics.

Preparing for your appointment

If you think you have gonorrhea, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your gonorrhea causes complications, you may be referred to specialists.

Because appointments can be brief and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, as well as what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For gonorrhea, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Is gonorrhea causing my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • Should I be tested for other sexually transmitted infections?
  • Should my partner be tested for gonorrhea?
  • How long should I wait before resuming sexual activity?
  • How can I prevent gonorrhea in the future?
  • What gonorrhea complications should I be alert for?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
  • What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment if you have trouble understanding something the doctor says.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Have you been exposed to any sexually transmitted infections?

What you can do in the meantime

Abstain from sex until you see your doctor. Alert your sex partners that you're experiencing signs and symptoms, so they may consider seeing their doctors for testing.

Oct. 25, 2016
References
  1. WHO guidelines for the treatment of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/rtis/gonorrhoea-treatment-guidelines/en/. Accessed Sept. 18, 2016.
  2. Morgan MK, et al. Gonorrhea. Disease-a-Month. 2016;62:260.
  3. Skerlev M, et al. Gonorrhea: New challenges. Clinics in Dermatology. 2014;32:275.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. MMWR. 2015;64:1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6403a1.htm. Accessed Sept. 18, 2016.
  5. Gonorrhea: CDC fact sheet (detailed version). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm. Accessed Sept. 18, 2016.
  6. Fajardo-Bernal L, et al. Home-based versus clinic-based specimen collection in the management of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD011317.pub2/full. Accessed Sept. 20, 2016.
  7. Ferri FF. Gonorrhea. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 18, 2016.