How Do I Know If I Have Gonorrhea?

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on May 03, 2023
3 min read

Gonorrhea symptoms normally show up between 1 and 10 days after you get the infection. Some people don’t see any symptoms until after they’ve had the infection for months. Others -- usually women -- may never have symptoms at all.

Know the signs of this common sexually transmitted disease (STD) so you’ll have a better chance of recognizing and curing it quickly.

You get gonorrhea from a bacterium. This germ infects you when someone who has it passes it to you during sexual contact. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The most common symptoms show up in the mucous membranes (the linings of certain openings in your body) involved in these types of intercourse. These include your genital tract, rectum, and throat.

Gonorrhea can also cause problems with other parts of your body, like your joints, or even your eyes.

It’s possible for men not to have any symptoms. But when they do, they commonly include:

  • A burning feeling when you pee
  • Yellow, white, or green discharge from the tip of your penis
  • Painful, swollen testicles
  • Peeing more often than usual

It’s more common for women not to have symptoms of gonorrhea than it is for men. Even if you do have symptoms, they may be milder than men’s symptoms. You might mistake it for a bladder infection. You could have:


Evidence of gonorrhea can show up outside the genital tract. You might have symptoms in any of these areas:

Rectum. You may itch or be sore, have discharge, pain during bowel movements, or even bleed from your anus. If you’re a woman, your rectum can be infected even if you haven’t had anal sex. You may spread the bacteria when you wipe yourself after using the bathroom.

Throat. These symptoms can be mild, like a sore throat or swollen lymph nodes.

Joints. If the bacteria that cause gonorrhea infect your joints, it’s called septic arthritis. You’ll notice the affected joints are painful, red, swollen, and warm to the touch. It’ll hurt to move them.

Eyes. If you touch your eyes after touching bodily fluids that are infected with gonorrhea, you could get conjunctivitis (pink eye). This condition makes your eyes red and swollen.

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment to get tested for gonorrhea. You should also be tested if you’re having sex with someone who has symptoms.

At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your sex life to get a better idea of your risk for this STD. They’ll also ask what symptoms you are having and when they started.

To test you for the infection, they’ll take a sample from or swab one or more of the following places:

  • Urine
  • Throat (if you’ve had oral sex)
  • Rectum (if you’ve had anal sex)
  • Cervix (in women)
  • Urethra (in men)

Your doctor will send the sample to a lab, where it’ll be tested for the bacterium that causes gonorrhea. Having it increases your chances of getting other STDs (like chlamydia), so your doctor may recommend that the lab test your sample for those, too.

If you’re a woman, there are also home test kits that you can use to check for gonorrhea. These come with swabs you use on your vagina to collect a sample. You mail the sample to a lab. The lab will contact you with your results.