Also called “the clap”

Gonorrhea, also known as "the clap," is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea doesn't often cause symptoms. When it does, people can experience vaginal or penile discharge and pain when urinating or during sex. The infection can be easily treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is gonorrhea curable?

    Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease. It is treatable with antibiotics, however, the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium that causes gonorrhea has become resistant to most antibiotics. While a single dose of azithromycin and ceftriaxone can clear most infections, reinfection is common.

  • How do you get gonorrhea?

    Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. In 2017, there were 555,608 reported cases of gonorrhea in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • What does gonorrhea look like?

    Gonorrhea symptoms can vary depending on the type of infection, and many people have no symptoms at all. Symptoms include vaginal or penile discharge that may be greenish-yellow or white, burning or pain when urinating, vaginal itchiness, bleeding between periods, lower abdominal pain or discomfort, pain during sex,  and swelling in the testicles or scrotum. Rectal gonorrhea may cause mild itchiness, discomfort, bleeding, or pain during defecation.

  • Why Is gonorrhea called the clap?

    Gonorrhea is also known as the clap, but the reasons why are unclear. One theory is it is short for the 13th century French word clapoire, which was a slang term for brothels. Another theory is the phrase comes from a medieval treatment for gonorrhea that involved clapping one's hands around the penis to reduce the pain and swelling.

  • Can you get gonorrhea from kissing?

    No. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You cannot get gonorrhea from kissing.

  • Can gonorrhea go away on its own?

    No, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection and requires treatment with antibiotics. Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent damage including infertility. In women, gonorrhea can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. It can also spread to the bloodstream and cause disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI), a potentially life-threatening illness.

Key Terms

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  1. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Sore throat. Updated September 23, 2020.

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Sexually transmitted diseases. Updated September 29, 2020.

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