Gonorrhea of the Throat: Everything You Need to Know

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It typically infects the penis, vagina, urethra, or anus, but it can also infect the mouth and throat (pharynx). Gonorrhea is common. Most cases occur in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24.

It's possible for gonorrhea to cause no symptoms. However, untreated gonorrhea can lead to serious complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, sepsis (blood infection), and joint arthritis.

This article discusses the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of throat gonorrhea.

woman holding her throat

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Oral Gonorrhea Causes

Oral gonorrhea is caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is spread from an infected individual to another through unprotected oral sex.

Oral Gonorrhea Symptoms

Many oral gonorrhea infections are asymptomatic. However, when symptoms do occur, the most common ones are:

Other Conditions With Similar Symptoms

Gonorrhea of the throat may be mistaken for other throat infections or conditions, including:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you suspect you have gonorrhea based on your symptoms, you should get tested. You are at a higher risk if you are having unprotected sex or if you have multiple sexual partners.

If you have had unprotected sex (oral, vaginal, or anal) with someone who has tested positive for gonorrhea, you should be tested regardless of whether you have symptoms. This is because many infected individuals remain asymptomatic but are still at risk of developing serious complications.

Link to Genital Gonorrhea

At least one study demonstrated a high rate of gonorrhea infections of the throat among individuals who had genital gonorrhea infections.

Diagnosis

A healthcare provider may suspect gonorrhea based on your symptoms and reported sexual history.

Diagnosing throat gonorrhea infections is done in a similar way as genital infections. Providers will take a swab of the back of the throat and send it to a laboratory to see if the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is present.

Your healthcare provider will likely recommend that you be tested for other sexually transmitted infections, including:

Treatment

Gonorrhea infections are treated with antibiotics. The most common treatment involves a single intramuscular injection of Rocephin (ceftriaxone) along with a seven-day course of oral Zithromax (azithromycin).

Other antibiotics may be used if allergies are present or if the gonorrhea is a resistant strain.

Anyone you have recently had sex with should also be notified and treated.

Prevention

The best way to prevent gonorrhea infections, including throat gonorrhea, is to use a condom when engaging in oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Other types of birth control are not effective in preventing infection.

If you are not in a monogamous relationship and have multiple sexual partners, you may discuss with your healthcare provider a routine screening program to test for gonorrhea and other STIs.

Summary

Throat gonorrhea can occur from having unprotected oral sex with an infected individual. Most infections do not cause symptoms, though symptoms can include a sore throat or swollen lymph nodes. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to serious complications. Individuals who are at high risk should be routinely screened for gonorrhea and other STIs.

A Word From Verywell

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, occurring most commonly among young people. When detected early, it can be treated with antibiotics fairly simply. However, the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections is to use a condom during sex.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you get gonorrhea in the throat?

    You get gonorrhea of the throat by having unprotected oral sex with an infected individual.

  • How long does throat gonorrhea last?

    Once you have been taking the correct antibiotic for approximately 24 hours, your symptoms should start to subside. However, you should continue taking the medication exactly as prescribed for the prescribed length of time even if symptoms improve before the prescription is finished to avoid creating resistant strains of the bacteria. Infections that have gone untreated and spread, or infections that are antibiotic-resistant, may take longer to clear up.

  • What does oral gonorrhea feel like?

    Most oral gonorrhea infections produce no symptoms. If symptoms are present they typically cause a sore throat. You may also have swollen lymph nodes (that feel like hard bumps) in your neck.

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3 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. Javanbakht M, Westmoreland D, Gorbach P. Factors associated with pharyngeal gonorrhea in young people: implications for preventionSex Transm Dis. 2018;45(9):588-593. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000822

  3. UpToDate. Patient education: gonorrhea (beyond the basics).