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Sexual Conditions Health Center

Gonorrhea - Exams and Tests

Diagnosis of gonorrhea includes a medical history and a physical exam. Your doctor may ask you the following questions.

  • Do you think you have been exposed to any sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? How do you know? Did your partner tell you?
  • What are your symptoms?
    • Do you have any discharge? If you have discharge from your vagina or penis, it is important to note any smell or color.
    • Do you have sores in your genital area or anywhere else on your body?
    • Do you have any urinary symptoms, including frequent urination, burning or stinging with urination, or urinating in small amounts?
    • Do you have any unusual belly or pelvic pain?
  • What method of birth control do you use? Do you use a condom to protect against STIs every time you have sex?
  • Do you or your partner engage in certain sexual behaviors that may put you at risk, such as having multiple sex partners or having sex without using a condom (except if you're in a long-term relationship)?
  • Have you had an STI in the past? How was it treated?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history. Then:

Several gonorrhea tests can be used to detect or confirm an infection. Your doctor will collect a sample of body fluid or urine to be tested for gonorrhea bacteria (Neisseria gonorrhoeae). Most tests give results within a few days.

Other sexually transmitted infections may be present with a gonorrhea infection. Your doctor may recommend testing for:

  • Chlamydia, a bacterial infection of the urethra in men, and the urethra, the cervix, or the upper reproductive organs (or all three) in women. Up to 40% of people who have gonorrhea also have chlamydia.1
  • Syphilis, a bacterial infection in which the most common symptom is a painless sore called a chancre (say "SHANK-er") that develops on the genitals.
  • Hepatitis B, a viral infection that causes the liver to become swollen and tender (inflamed).
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a virus that attacks the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight off infection and some diseases.

In the United States, your doctor must report to the state health department that you have gonorrhea.

Early detection

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women who have risk factors for gonorrhea.2

You may want to consider being tested once a year for gonorrhea even though you don't have symptoms if you have increased risks for STIs. These include having multiple sex partners or having sex without using a condom (except if you're in a long-term relationship). Testing will allow gonorrhea to be quickly diagnosed and treated. This helps reduce the risk of transmitting gonorrhea and avoid complications of the infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends screening for pregnant women who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors to prevent them from transmitting gonorrhea to their babies. If a pregnant woman is at high risk for gonorrhea, she may be tested again during the third trimester before delivery, to prevent transmitting the infection to her newborn.3

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 26, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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