Gonorrhea Treatment: What to Expect

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), also called a sexually transmitted disease (STD), caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. It is one of the most common STIs in the United States, causing 1.6 million new cases in 2018.

Gonorrhea is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Symptoms include painful urination, urethral discharge, rectal bleeding, rectal soreness, vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and rectal discharge. However, many people have gonorrhea and do not have symptoms.

A quick diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare provider can cure gonorrhea. This article will cover how long gonorrhea can last, its treatment options, and what to do if symptoms don't go away.

Man sitting on the couch in pain

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How Long Does Gonorrhea Last?

It's important for anyone who has gonorrhea to avoid any sexual activity for seven days after their treatment to prevent spreading it to other people. Anyone that has had sex with someone who has tested positive for gonorrhea should also be treated and avoid sexual contact for seven days even if they do not have symptoms.

All persons who receive a diagnosis of gonorrhea should be tested for other STIs, including chlamydia, syphilis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Those persons whose HIV test results are negative should be offered Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

If gonorrhea goes untreated it can cause serious health issues. It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. It can also cause epididymitis. In all genders, untreated gonorrhea can cause a potentially life-threatening condition called disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI).


Click Play to Learn About the Symptoms of Gonorrhea

This video has been medically reviewed by Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD

Is It Normal to Experience Symptoms After Treatment?

Gonorrhea treatment typically relieves symptoms within one week. If someone continues to have symptoms three to five days after they finish gonorrhea treatment, they should contact their healthcare provider. Continued symptoms could indicate that the treatment didn't work.

Antibiotic resistance has been an ongoing problem with gonorrhea treatment. This means that the gonorrhea bacteria has changed over time to adapt to antibiotics, making it harder to get rid of it.

Gonorrhea Treatment Side Effects

A Rocephin (ceftriaxone) shot is the most common treatment for gonorrhea. It is a cephalosporin antibiotic. The most common side effects are:

  • Stomach pain
  • Yeast infection
  • Diarrhea

Gonorrhea Treatment Options

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. The preferred antibiotic used by healthcare providers is Rocephin (ceftriaxone). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends gonorrhea treatments based on the patient's weight:

  • People under 330 pounds:
  • Rocephin (ceftriaxone) 500 milligrams injection in the muscle
  • People over 330 pounds:
  • Rocephin (ceftriaxone) 1 gram injection in the muscle

If someone has a cephalosporin sensitivity then high-dose azithromycin with gentamicin is recommended.

Gonorrhea infection in the throat can be difficult to cure. Therefore the CDC recommends that anyone with throat or oral gonorrhea return in seven to 14 days after the first treatment for a follow-up test.

Everyone who has had gonorrhea should be retested after three months. This is done to detect reinfection.

Preventing STIs

The CDC lists five ways to prevent STIs. They are:

  • Abstinence: Avoiding sex is the most reliable way to prevent STIs.
  • Vaccination: Getting the hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can prevent these STIs.
  • Reduce Sex Partners: Limiting the number of sex partners can reduce STI transmission.
  • Monogamy: Mutual monogamy, when both partners agree to only have sex with each other is a very successful way to prevent STIs.
  • Condoms: Using male latex condoms is effective at preventing STIs. For those with latex allergies, synthetic non-latex condoms can be used. But it is important to note that these condoms have higher breakage rates than latex condoms.

What If My Gonorrhea Isn’t Going Away?

If gonorrhea doesn't go away within three to five days after treatment, it's time to contact a healthcare provider. Only a healthcare provider can provide the right treatment to get rid of gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea may not disappear because of failed treatment or reinfection. If treatment was not successful, a healthcare provider will determine the best next steps. Anyone can be reinfected if they have sexual contact with someone who has gonorrhea.


Gonorrhea is an STI caused by a bacterial infection. Treatment with the antibiotic ceftriaxone is very successful at curing gonorrhea. Anyone who has gonorrhea must tell their sex partners so that they can also be treated, even if they do not have symptoms.

Gonorrhea treatment typically gets rid of symptoms within a week. If symptoms persist three to five days after treatment then it's time to contact a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

If you or your sex partner have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, you need to be treated. Treatment of those both infected and their sex partners can help reduce the likelihood of reinfection.

Talking to your healthcare provider about gonorrhea can be difficult, but it's so important to get the right diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I know if my gonorrhea is cured?

    If genital or rectal gonorrhea symptoms have gone away within one week then they likely have been cured. People who have oral gonorrhea will need to be retested seven to 14 days after treatment to ensure their infection has gone away.

  • Do gonorrhea symptoms come and go?

    Gonorrhea symptoms do not come and go. However, many people who have gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Antibiotic treatment is the only way to eliminate symptoms and ensure that someone is cured.

  • How long is gonorrhea contagious?

    Gonorrhea is contagious until someone has had successful treatment. People with gonorrhea must wait seven days to ensure they are no longer contagious.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea.

  2. UpToDate. Treatment of uncomplicated Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea-CDC detailed fact sheet.

  4. Ayinde O, Ross JDC. Time to resolution of genital symptoms for uncomplicated gonorrhoea: a prospective cohort studySex Transm Infect. 2021;97(5):368-374. doi:10.1136/sextrans-2020-054626

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea treatment and care.

  6. MedlinePlus. Ceftriaxone injection.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonococcal infections among adolescents and adults.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.